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Undocumented immigrant rights leader targeted for deportation

From the editors  |  Issue: February | March 2018

Editor’s note: the following are excerpts from a press release and interview about the targeting for deportation of an undocumented immigrant rights leader, Marú Mora Villalpando. She is an activist, organizer, immigrant, and mother in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. She has lived in the United States for more than 25 years.

Maru Mora Villalpando, called a “modern-day freedom fighter,” leads the Seattle, WA, organization, Northwest Detention Center Resistance. It was founded when immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center began a series of hunger strikes in 2014 protesting their inhumane treatment.

Mora-Villalpando continued to support and amplify the organizing efforts against U.S. 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 efforts of Mora-Villalpando and the NWDCR, people detained continue their struggle to be heard and demand justice, with nine hunger strikes at the facility last year. Mora-Villalpando’s efforts have 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 chosen to target Mora-Villalpando, serving her suddenly with deportation papers. When asked why this is happening now, Maru told Democracy, Now!, “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. For us, it’s clear that their actions against immigrants, starting with their campaign hitting Mexicans, has grown. But we still fight. We still resist. And we have been winning. So we believe that ICE is really sending us a message to stop our political activity, to stop our activism. When I saw that letter, I immediately knew what it was. And I laughed to myself, because I felt, ‘They are sending me a message. 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 (recently detained) and Jean Montrevil, two leaders in New York’s immigrant-rights advocacy community.

Maru said, “They will go after many others, not only undocumented, but documented, and even possibly 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.”

“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 that undocumented youth became known for in 2010.

Mora-Villalpando has lived in the United States for more than 25 years. She lives with her daughter, Josefina, who is a U.S. citizen. In addition to working with NWDC Resistance she is a founding member of the national Latinx organization, Mijente.

For more information, contact 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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