Immigrant rights leader targeted for deportation

Press conference in defense of Maru Mora-Villalpando [right], an immigrant rights leader targeted for deportation. She champions hunger-striking immigrants protesting inhumane conditions in privately owned for-profit prisons.
PHOTO/NORTHWEST DETENTION CENTER RESISTANCE

Editor’s note: the following are excerpts from a press release by immigrant rights organizations (see contact information below) and an interview with Democracy, Now! about the targeting for deportation of Maru Mora-Villalpando, an immigrant rights leader in Seattle, WA who has lived in the US for over 25 years.

Maru Mora-Villalpando, called a “modern-day freedom fighter,” leads the Seattle organization, Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDCR). The group formed when immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center began hunger strikes in 2014 protesting their inhumane treatment. Mora-Villalpando continued to support and amplify the organizing against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the GEO Group (the private contractor that operates the ICE facility from within the detention center.) Buoyed by the support of Mora-Villalpando and the NWDCR, detainees continue their struggle to be heard and demand justice, with nine hunger strikes at the facility last year. Mora-Villalpando’s efforts transformed the detention center from an ignored facility to a key site of local resistance, with weekly rallies and vigils outside its gates.

Now, in an unprecedented act of retaliation, ICE has targeted Mora-Villalpando, serving her suddenly with deportation papers. When asked why this is happening now, Maru said, “ICE only knows about me because of my political work . . . I have spoken out to defend immigrants in detention and shared my story as an undocumented mother,” adding, “we have a deportation machine that has grown incredibly big. And when Obama was leaving, he had the opportunity to stop it, but instead gave the keys to this fascist regime that has utilized it in so many different ways.” Maru says ICE was created with a specific intention, not only for deportations, but to destroy people and their families. She says they are just one more element of the police state oppression apparatus, adding, “They’re Trump’s police now. . .”

“But we still fight. We still resist. And we have been winning. So we believe ICE is sending us a message to stop our political activity, to stop our activism. When I saw that letter, I laughed to myself, because I felt, ‘They want me to stop. And I won’t stop.’”

This is not the first time ICE targets immigrants who speak out. This past December the Seattle Times reported that one of their interviewees, Baltazar Aburto Gutierrez, was detained by ICE agents who cited his recent appearance in that newspaper. Other activists nationally have also been targeted, including Ravi Ragbir and Jean Montrevil, two leaders in New York’s immigrant rights advocacy community.

“They will go after many others, not only undocumented, but documented, and possibly even U.S. citizens. Remember, the Department of Justice is saying they’re going to review, along with Homeland Security, 150,000 records of U.S. citizens, naturalized,” Maru says.

“We will not allow ICE to deport Maru and deter our organizing,” explained Tania Unzueta, Mijente Policy Director, and one of the first undocumented organizers to start the “coming out of the shadows” strategy of undocumented youth.

Contact information: Maru Mora-Villalpando, 206 251 6658, maru@latinoadvocacy.org; Tania Unzueta, Mijente, 773 387 3186, tania@mijente.net, or Angélica Cházaro, NWDC Resistance, 646 496 5724, achazaro@gmail.com

 

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