‘We are not mere victims but warriors in struggle,’ says immigrant rights leader
SEATTLE, WA — When I received a certified letter on December 20, 2017, I did not imagine the change in the country, the overwhelming support for our immigrant communities in 2018. The letter was from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or as we Latinxs know it—La Migra. They started a deportation process against me because of my work in favor of immigrants, especially the detainees, and against ICE.
After two hearings and all of my petitions being denied by the judge, we were surprised that ICE gave me more time so that my daughter, born in the United States, could apply for my stay as soon as she turned 21 in August.
Our work for the defense of our communities includes forecasting the political climate, and in 2017, we already knew there was a total war against us by the new government. First, they criminalize our presence and thus justify our detention and deportation, then—as in my case—they go behind immigrant activists to try to intimidate the community and stop our work. Now we see the criminalization of whole families who ask for asylum, and a step toward extreme cruelty, separating entire families and putting adults and children in separate detentions.
It’s not a new tactic to detain families, but the separation of children from their parents is. It shows the clear intention of this government to use the infrastructure developed by previous governments against our community, as well as to expand the legal power they have always had to criminalize us.
One way to achieve this is to use the laws that say people who are deported and return will get years in federal prison. This will also happen to those who enter the country without permission. In my state of Washington, we have seen this many times. Parents who spend two years in the federal prison of SeaTac are then sent to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA, SeaTac prison, to California, Oregon or Texas. These prisons signed a contract for parents separated from their children at the border to carry out their sentences of at least 120 days in these states.
First they came for immigrants in the interior, then for we activists, then for fathers/mothers and children on the border. Instead of asking who’s next, let’s make sure the immense support activists like me and separated families have received is a support that recognizes the work we have been doing for decades. Let it be recognized that we are not mere victims but warriors in struggle. We are fighters and experts, we know how to lead the fight, and do not need heroes or saviors, we need accomplices and honest support without profit, neither political, economic nor moral.
The legal process against me continues but I have the opportunity and privilege of having an entire community at my side, supporting my family. Let’s ensure that the future is full of such community support for all people, with or without family, with decades in the country or newcomers, and that our experience is recognized as the guide for our liberation.
Contact Maru Mora Villalpando at 206-251-6658 at Northwest Detention Center Resistance.