Q&A With Immigrant Rights Activist Erika Andiola


Erika Andiola speaks with the St. Edward’s community at a meet and greet.

Hilltop Views sat down with Erika Andiola, who is the co-founder of DREAM Action Coalition, former press secretary to Sen. Bernie Sanders and this year’s Common Theme speaker. 

Question: How do you stay energized in immigration advocacy when you wake up to news like former Sheriff Joe Arpaio being pardoned and the DACA deadline happening today?

Andiola: It’s challenging and it’s tiring and it’s frustrating, but I think I get my strength from knowing that I came from Arizona. I grew up in Arizona and a lot of this is not very new for us. We have faced a lot of opposition to the immigrant community for many years. We not only had Arpaio, but also we passed things like S.B. 1070, which was similar to S.B. 4 here in Texas. We had raids all over the state that we had to fight against. This was 2006, so it’s nothing new. But I was able to see a lot of resilience in that community and see a lot of people really standing up to it. I think right now Arizona has a community that’s always ready to fight. And it’s a community that’s not only resilient but also very strong. Right now, a lot of people are hurting – I’m hurting, my family is hurting, but I really hope that this will turn out like Arizona and we’ll have a community that’s ready to continue to fight. And I’ve seen it before; Arpaio got pardoned, but we kicked him out of office, right? We kicked him out of office. We won back in-state tuition so that gives me a lot of hope to keep moving forward.

Q: You dealt with Proposition 300 and the students you’ll be speaking to tonight are dealing with S.B. 4. How did you prepare to speak to them knowing that your audience is undergoing some of the universal struggles of the immigrant community but also state laws?

Andiola: A lot of folks from Texas, friends of mine who I’ve been organizing with on the immigrants rights movement, the Dreamers movement, reached out about Arizona when this was happening, because they saw we had to go through a very similar situation. S.B. 4 is a little bit tougher, but at the same time, the message that I had for them was it was gonna take time. It took time – several years – to be able to get rid of S.B. 1070, to be able to get rid of Arpaio, to be able to give DACA – literally Dreamers at that time who didn’t have any DACA, who didn’t have any sort of status and our parents who didn’t have any sort of status – to be able to be outspoken. And lose that fear. And it takes a lot of empowerment, it takes a lot of organizing, and it also takes a lot of communication and collaboration between people. Texas is a lot bigger and a lot harder, but it has to start somewhere. So there’s a lot of hope, we just gotta take it one day at a time. Un dia a la vez. My mom always tells me, that’s how I’ve taken life the past couple of years. When you wake up, you have to realize it’s a new day, it’s a new fight. And just keep moving forward.

Q: Earlier today, you applauded Gov. Jerry Brown for signing S.B. 54. It’s believed that Austin was targeted last year for our “sanctuary city” status. So, how do you balance the accomplishment of a state or city status as a sanctuary city but also the potential for backlash because of that?

Andiola: There’s definitely a threat. I think that specifically with California, it’s one of those states where people have organized for so many years that I think they’re ready to fight back if something like that happens. But also, there are already raids, there’s already deportations that are happening every day, there’s already people who have been in detention centers around the state. And it’s the state that has the most undocumented people around the country. So it does worry me, but I think that this is a step forward and it will show an example of what a progressive state can do to protect undocumented immigrants. Austin definitely got targeted, but we shouldn’t let them defeat us because those are fear tactics. They’re fear tactics. It’s like, you do something good, I’m gonna go after you. Well, then you have to show them that you stand up again against that, and that you keep fighting and keep protecting people. Perhaps it takes you to be ready, to be able to have a community organized against those raids. To defend people one on one, to have attorneys ready for them, whatever you need to do, but I don’t think we should be letting fear stop us from actually doing something like a sanctuary city or state – now we have a state! So next it has to be Oregon or Washington or all those other places that are majority progressive or that call themselves progressive.

Q: Tell me about your work with Our Revolution?

Andiola: I work as a political director. I came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign as a political director of the organization. Basically my job and my task is to elect people at the city level or the state level – just very local races to be able to get support to be able to win. In very simple terms, I’m trying to elect little Bernie’s all over the nation. People who run on progressive platforms or populace who really believe people come before profit. I’m a DACA recipient so for me this issue is very personal and I’m gonna continue to work for it but I’m also 30 years old and have been in the political world for quite some time now, so many times I do feel like I wear two hats but during the day I elect candidates and when I go home, I get calls about DACA and figuring out how to keep my mom from getting deported. So I think that’s the case of a lot of DACA recipients right now – you got a day job and a night job.

Q: What legislation do you think should replace DACA? Should it be the Dream Act, the Bridge Act, etc.?

Andiola: With the understanding that more than, I’d say, 70 percent of the American people actually support the Dream Act. There was a poll with Trump supporters, more than 70 percent of them said they’d support something for Dreamers. So I think we’ve built enough power in the Dreamer movement and enough support from the American people that we do have the power to pass something like Dream. The Dream Act that Durban and Graham have introduced in the Senate – which is the most progressive, which is the one that’s gonna cover the most people, and it’s bipartisan. So that’s what we’re fighting for right now. Not only for that bill, but for that bill to be clean. Meaning that there’s no attachments to it and that it’s not used as a bargaining chip to get more law enforcement on us.