A Boyle Heights immigration activist who was released from detention last year after widespread protests is suing the Department of Homeland Security, claiming her application for temporary relief from deportation was denied because of her activism.
Claudia Rueda, a 23-year-old Cal State Los Angeles student, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that the government unfairly rejected her application for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy last year after she led several protests against U.S. immigration policy and demanded that her mother, who is also undocumented, be released from federal custody.
“The only discernible difference between Ms. Rueda and the hundreds of thousands of others who have been approved for DACA status is her political speech and activism,” the lawsuit states.
Rueda was arrested by Border Patrol agents in May of last year outside her home in Boyle Heights, a month after her mother Teresa Vidal-Jaime was detained on a civil immigration violation following a drug raid. Neither Rueda nor Vidal-Jaime were charged in connection with any illegal narcotics activity, and at the time of her arrest, Rueda said she was being targeted for protesting her mother’s detention.
Though Vidal-Jaime was released from detention six days before Rueda was arrested, Rueda spent several weeks in federal custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego, which she said took a toll on her physical and mental health.
The lawsuit calls her 2017 arrest “unlawful and retaliatory” and connects it to a “pattern and practice” of targeting immigrants’ rights activists. Rueda is described in the suit as “law-abiding and motivated,” with no criminal history.
In addition, it argues that the Department of Homeland Security violated its own standards by failing to provide Rueda with a notice of its intent to deny her DACA application or an opportunity to respond. More than 800,000 people are currently enrolled in the Obama-era program, which aims to provide protection from deportation and work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
“Ms. Rueda is the paradigmatic ‘Dreamer,’” the lawsuit states, using a common term for people eligible for DACA protections. “She has lived in and contributed to the Los Angeles community since she was six years old.”
Rueda first applied for DACA protections in July of last year, just before the administration of President Donald Trump announced it would no longer accept new applications to the program. Though Trump has floated the idea of killing the program entirely, federal courts ruled that those who had previously been approved could still seek renewals to their DACA status.