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Judge orders student released from immigration custody

BOYLE HEIGHTS — A Cal State Los Angeles student who was arrested by immigration authorities in what her supporters contend was retaliation for her activism following the detention of her mother for possible deportation earlier this year was released from custody June 9.

An immigration judge in San Diego ordered that Claudia Rueda, 22, be released on her own recognizance, despite arguments from federal prosecutors that she be kept in custody. She was set free early that afternoon.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone across the state who has been helping me and to not forget about other people that are detained, that are in my shoes, and that we need to keep fighting for everyone that’s being detained in this unjust immigration system,” Rueda said in a video statement to her supporters after she was released.

Despite her release, Rueda still faces possible deportation, but attorneys representing her are calling on federal authorities to drop the case.

They contend she is eligible to apply for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which protects from deportation immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as young children.

“Today, the judge did what ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and the Border Patrol had unfairly refused to do and freed Claudia from detention,” Rueda’s attorney, Monika Langarica, said. “Now, ICE must remedy Border Patrol’s deeply unjust arrest of Claudia by granting prosecutorial discretion and moving to drop her deportation case. The shadow of deportation should not hang over Claudia as she continues her vital studies and activism.”

Rueda was arrested by Customs and Border Patrol agents May 19 when she walked outside her family’s house to move a car.

Federal officials, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, said the next day Rueda was one of seven people detained as part of a probe into a “cross-border narcotics smuggling operation,” but all were arrested for alleged immigration violations.

Rueda’s supporters, however, believe she was targeted because of her activism. They contend her arrest was carried out in retaliation for her criticism of Customs and Border Patrol officials following the April detention of her mother, Teresa Vidal-Jaime, 54. Vidal-Jaime was detained as part of a multi-agency drug raid at her home that resulted in the arrest of her husband, Hugo Rueda, authorities said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials, who took part in that raid, said Vidal-Jaime was questioned but was not arrested as part of the narcotics investigation. But Customs and Border Patrol agents, who were also involved in the raid, later arrested Vidal-Jaime after determining she was in the country illegally.

Her arrest led to a series of protests, including one accusing the sheriff’s department of colluding with federal immigration authorities — something the sheriff’s department vehemently denied, saying they had no involvement with Vidal-Jaime’s arrest.

But Rueda was outspoken in her criticism of her mother’s arrest.

“Despite being told she would not be detained as long she cooperated, my mother was apprehended during an illegally conducted raid at my apartment,” Rueda said at the time. She said authorities “used intimidation tactics to enter the home,” and her mother gave law enforcement access to her home “out of fear of retaliation.”

Vidal-Jamie was eventually released.

Rueda had been in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which stressed it was not involved in her arrest.

According to officials,”Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Ms. Rueda currently has no legal authorization to be in the United States,” and it will ultimately be up to a judge with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to determine if she will be deported.

Activists said Rueda has no criminal record and was brought to the United States at age 4.

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