By Valeria Fernández
New America Media
Two immigrant mothers stood outside the downtown Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office holding a sign that read, “They have a Dream.” The women stood in silence — they shouted no slogans and sang no chants. They didn’t need to. The lyrics to a song being performed live right in front of them told their story and that of so many others like them.
“El Hielo anda suelto por esas calles, nunca se sabe cuando nos va a tocar.” (ICE is on the loose out on the streets, you never know when your number’s up.)
With Congress on the cusp of renewing the conversation about federal immigration reform, local immigrant rights organizations in Arizona have begun using the song, “El Hielo” by the Los Angeles-based band La Santa Cecilia, to underscore their message to stop all deportations.
The song’s popularity among immigration reform activists here shot up after the band performed it at an immigration reform rally on April 10th in Washington D.C. Since then, the music video has gone viral in social media, with the official video garnering over 315,000 views on Youtube at the time of this article.
Directed by Alex Rivera and produced by the National Day Laborers Network (NDLON), the music video tells the story of an undocumented mother who is arrested at her workplace during a raid by ICE agents.
Part of the video’s appeal lies in the fact that the actors are not your usual Hollywood stars — they are in fact real protagonists of a narrative all too familiar to the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants and their families living in this country.
Erika Andiola, 25, who plays the role of the mother, is recognized nationally for her work as a Dream Act activist. In real life, ICE agents arrested her mother and brother last January at their home.
Cry, children cry when they leave / They cry when mom’s not coming to pick them up / Some of us stay here / Others stay there / It happens just going out to find work
Those particular song lyrics touch Andiola’s heart because they remind her of her own story, but specifically that of Katherine Figueroa, whose Mexican parents were arrested at work by deputies of the Maricopa County Sheriff.
“It hurts, and Kathy had to go through that,” said Andiola. “She’s worried now about her parents. I know too many of these kids going through that.”
Figueroa’s parents are scheduled to appear at immigration court next July and could face deportation.
“If this happened four years ago, I don’t think we would have been able to have an ‘undocumented’ video (like El Hielo),” she said.
But it’s not only the actors in the video that are undocumented or have experienced family separation — some members of the band, La Santa Cecilia, are undocumented as well.
“We live this every day in the band, every day when we travel to one state or another, we live with the fear that a border patrol or ICE agent can stop us,” said Pepe Carlos, who is an undocumented immigrant and plays the accordion in the band.
“We want people in this country to know that these are real people going through this, it’s not just a statistic. They are not second class citizens, but hard working people,” he added.
Mirroring Real Life
The story weaved in “El Hielo” hit close to home for two immigrant mothers in Arizona who met the band during a protest last week outside of ICE’s Phoenix office.
“My daughter was arrested at work, a day after she got her DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals paperwork) in the mail,” said Ilda Verónica Perez, the mother of Zamira, who had applied for President Obama’s deferral program for immigrants that entered in the country illegally as children.
Zamira was eventually released when she was turned over by the county jail to federal immigration custody. Despite her filed DACA application, she still has a date to see an immigration judge, according to ICE officials.
The other mother, Maria Gomez, is still pleading for her 21-year-old daughter’s release.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Noemí Romero Gomez during an immigration raid on a local grocery story where she was working last January.
“She had been there for only three months,” said her mother. “I never let her work before. She wanted to save money for her DACA application.”
In Maricopa County, most people caught working with false documents are charged with numerous counts of identity theft and forgery that make them legally deportable, and are then offered plea deals.
Noemí is being held in immigration custody without bond, and her case is under review by ICE.
Members of PUENTE, an activist organization, are asking ICE to stop the deportation of Noemí, who might otherwise qualify for a work permit through DACA and potentially could benefit from pending federal immigration reform.
“We’re asking ICE to stop these deportations. The charges that County Attorney (Bill) Montgomery gave them are not just,” said Carlos García, director of PUENTE, whose organization has launched an online petition to ask for an end to their removal. “It’s a contradiction that Obama gives these kids a work permit and on the other hand they try to remove them.”
The lead singer of La Santa Cecilia, Marisol Hernández, aka “La Marisoul,” listened to the testimonies of both mothers during the press conference.
“It was emotional and heart wrenching to hear this mother say that her daughter was arrested (and detained) for 90 days,” said Hernández. “It’s sad, but at the same time it is wonderful that they can come out here and tell their story, so people know about it.”
La Santa Cecilia is not the first band to put a pro-immigrant and activist-oriented message in their music, and neither is it the first time that NDLON and PUENTE have collaborated with a musical artist to spread awareness. In 2011, the artist Manu Chao played a free concert in Phoenix, sponsored by those organizations. And in 2010, former Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zack de la Rocha and singer Linda Ronstadt joined a march protesting conditions for immigrant prisoners in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails.
“Right now, what we want is to stop all the deportations. That’s what we want the congressmen and the president to know,” said Miguel Ramirez, La Santa Cecilia’s percussionist. “These people deserve to be here.”
You can view the video on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/0lNJviuYUEQ
In addition to covering immigration matters in Arizona for New America Media, Valeria Fernández directed and co-produced the documentary film “Two Americans” which tells the story of the arrest of Katherine Figueroa’s parents.