An immigration and reproductive justice rights activist who was detained at a peaceful protest got a legal reprieve Tuesday at a Virginia court.
Alejandra Pablos, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 7 “in retaliation” for protesting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at a rally, appeared Tuesday in Virginia’s Chesterfield General District Court, flanked by more than two dozen supporters. Judge Keith Hurley continued the case to October 26 and said Pablos did not need to reappear. Pablos was held in custody for 43 days at Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center, one of the most dangerous facilities in the United States. She was recently released after making an $8,000 bond fundraised by supporters, as Rewire.News reported.
Cheers broke out in the parking lot minutes after the brief court hearing as supporters and activists from immigrants rights organizations celebrated the continuance as a positive sign.
“If nothing happens during the next four months, they [will] just drop the charges,” Pablos said in a brief address. “The fight continues and I will not get arrested in the next four months.”
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Immigrant and reproductive rights organizations 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.”
Before she went into the the courthouse Tuesday, Pablos thanked her supporters for coming out and warned that she could be “found guilty on some of the charges and they can take me” in the worst case scenario.
“It’s really, really tough to go through,” she said. “Just remember that this is the second time I’m being really targeted for speaking up for myself and for everybody in our community.”
She told Rewire.News it’s “really upsetting to go through this over and over again” under an administration that targets immigrants and protesters and is not held accountable.
Pablos works as the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and is a member of We Testify, an abortion storytelling leadership program of the National Network of Abortion Funds, and Mijente, a social justice organizing network.
“We stand with Alejandra and we continue to fight with her and other families directly impacted by the system and as students, we continue to have resources for individuals like her,” said Yanet Amado, from the Virginia Interfaith Coalition and the Virginia Intercollegiate Immigration Alliance. “At the end, the community will stand up and win for anyone who is affected.”
This is not the first time the activist has been targeted. Pablos was placed in deportation proceedings more than two years ago, losing her legal permanent resident status, following a drug-related arrest and a DUI charge.
Activists pointed out that Pablos is one of many activists and immigrants recently targeted for arrest or detention by ICE. 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.
Memphis-based immigration reporter Manuel Duran was arrested at a protest last month with eight others. The eight activists were released on bail while Duran remains in ICE custody, detained in Louisiana.
Marie Stella of Chesterfield told Rewire.News she came to support Pablos because she’s outraged. “We have a right to protest, that’s what America is about, that’s why I am here today.”
She said her grandparents emigrated from Italy and her mother was born in the United States but lived most of her childhood in Italy. She recalled draconian methods where German and Italian immigrants were forced to take IQ tests to prove they were worthy of moving to the United States.
“In Chesterfield County, we need our immigrants. We need to support them and make sure they get a great education because they will be the people who will take care of us tomorrow,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with Rewire.News‘ Tina Vasquez, Pablos outlined the brutality and unfairness of her arrest and the detention that followed. She was the only activist arrested at what was a peaceful rally.
“What’s really tough about the situation is that when you’re in ICE’s hands, you don’t know when you’re going to come home. It’s not like the regular criminal justice system. You can be detained by ICE indefinitely. They can hold you without a bond hearing. You may never go to court. That’s how it is for a lot of people,” she said.