Was This Cal State LA Student Detained by Border Patrol Because of Her Activism?

Jennifer Van Laar
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Posted: May 21, 2017 7:00 PM
Was This Cal State LA Student Detained by Border Patrol Because of Her Activism?

Cal State Los Angeles student and "undocumented" immigrant Claudia Rueda, 22, got up Thursday morning to move her family's car (you don't want your car parked on the street on street cleaning day), and when she exited the car she was met by Border Patrol agents and detained. By Friday night, Rueda had been transferred to ICE custody for removal proceedings. That much of the story is not in dispute.

Rueda's attorney and friends say the actions are retaliatory and that she was individually targeted Thursday because she's an activist for (illegal) immigrant rights. Rueda's mother was detained in April when a "large scale drug bust" was conducted at their apartment complex, and Rueda has organized public rallies demanding her release. According to Rueda's supporters, her mother was cleared of any connection to the drug operation but is still facing deportation.

Besides, they claim, Rueda is eligible for DACA, but just couldn't get enough money together for the fees.

There's more to the story, though. Late Thursday, the Border Patrol released a statement indicating the sweep was not targeted at Rueda individually, but aimed "disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations engaged in illicit cross-border smuggling."

This morning, U.S. Border Patrol agents conducted enforcement actions in Los Angeles, Calif., targeting multiple individuals at numerous locations. This enforcement action resulted from a criminal investigation of a cross-border narcotics smuggling organization. The Border Patrol targeted individuals who are associated with that organization. Agents arrested these individuals for federal immigration violations. The U.S. Border Patrol is committed to enhancing the safety of communities by disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations engaged in illicit cross-border smuggling.

The criminal investigation referenced involves Rueda's father, Hugo Rueda, 50, who was arrested in that April drug bust after Border Patrol agents found 50 bundles of cocaine, weighing 33 pounds, in his vehicle. Authorities searched another vehicle Hugo was "safekeeping" at the complex and found an ounce of crystal meth and a bundle of cash. When Claudia's mother granted authorities consent to search the family's apartment, they found a duffle bag full of cash ($600,000 once counted). 

Claudia and her mother both deny being part of the drug trade. In an LA Times article about the April arrests, Capt. Darren Harris of the LASD said the group could be part of a Mexican cartel.

“These are high-risk takedowns with lives at risk. This can be the cartel,” Harris said. “This case involves nearly a million dollars in drugs and cash.”

Mark Endicott, a supervisory agent with the Border Patrol in San Diego, said "each person targeted Thursday, including Rueda, had been identified as 'part of a support network' for the drug organization" and that "the intent of the enforcement effort was to disrupt the entire organization."

In a statement late Friday, an ICE spokesperson said, "She has been placed in removal proceedings.… It will now be up to an immigration judge ... to determine whether Ms. Rueda has a legal basis to remain in the U.S. or will be ordered removed.”