Pablos works as the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH); is a member of We Testify, an abortion storytelling leadership program of the National Network of Abortion Funds; and works with Mijente, a social justice organizing network.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained Pablos on March 7 “in retaliation” for protesting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at a rally in Virginia earlier this year, according to advocates. As Rewire.News’ Regina Mahone reported, Pablos was placed in deportation proceedings, losing her legal permanent resident status, more than two years ago following a drug-related arrest and a Driving Under the Influence charge.
Tania Unzueta, the legal and policy director for Mijente, told Rewire.News in a phone interview that Mijente has been fundraising money for Pablos’ bond and that she will be released after her $8,000 bond is paid. The activist spent 43 days in Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center, the deadliest such facility in the country, speaking to Mijente members at least two times a week.
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“Of course this experience has been really hard on her, the way detention is hard for everyone. But she’s also a public figure and because of that, she’s had negative interactions with guards,” Unzueta said.
Pablos is one of many activists recently taken into ICE custody. In January, the co-founders of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir, were detained in the same week in what advocates say was a targeted attack that included government surveillance. Ragbir’s deportation has been stayed, while Montrevil has been deported to Haiti.
Meanwhile, Memphis-based immigration reporter Manuel Duran was arrested earlier this month with eight other people following a protest. The eight activists were released on bail while Duran was transferred to ICE custody and remains detained in Louisiana.
Unzueta said it’s important for the U.S. public to understand that ICE is President Donald Trump’s “personal police force,” meaning the federal agency’s employees follow his orders to go after as many immigrants as possible. Soon, the legal and policy director said, the Justice Department may begin targeting U.S. citizens who help undocumented communities organize.
“A majority of people don’t understand how political ICE is and how so much of this isn’t actually about laws; it’s very much about carrying out a political agenda and in the case of Trump, it’s a racist, anti-immigrant agenda,” Unzueta said.
Unzueta said that for undocumented activists, it’s difficult to know if they’re being targeted because of their work or because of their immigration status.
“It’s a situation a lot of us find ourselves in,” Unzueta said. “Right now I’m working on the case of Maru Mora-Villalpando in Washington [state] and ICE has made it very clear that they’re trying to deport her because she’s undocumented, but they found out she was undocumented because of her activism. Alejandra was in deportation proceedings under Obama and because of her criminal record, she very well could have been deported under Obama too. The fact is that she was arrested at a DHS protest in Virginia, which alerted ICE to her criminal case in Arizona. Because of that, I would say today’s decision in court is directly tied to the pressure ICE feels because of Alejandra’s organizing background.”
A number of immigrant and reproductive rights organizations have voiced their support of Pablos and demanded her release, including the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Detention Watch Network, Planned Parenthood, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which released a statement outlining how Pablos has supported “countless women to defend their rights.”
“The impact of her detention is devastating, not only for [Pablos’] own well-being,” NDWA’s political director, Jess Morales Rocketto, said in a statement. “But also for her family and community who depend on her, and the chilling effect this action will have on others exercising their right to protest.”