Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been progressively setting their sights on activists in their crackdown against undocumented immigrants, and Maru Mora-Villalpando — a Washington-based immigrant’s rights advocate — has become the latest to receive a deportation notice.
Just days before the Christmas holiday, agents gifted the 47-year-old organizer and mother with a “Notice to Appear,” and she believes the deportation warning came because of her prominent involvement in the immigration movement.
“I believe that ICE sent me this letter and started deportation proceedings against me because they are not so much against my immigration status, but against my political work,” Mora-Villalpando told Crosscut on Tuesday.
Mora-Villalpando, who has been called a “modern-day freedom fighter,” heads the Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDCR), the group behind a series of hunger strikes at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington in 2014.
“ICE only knows about me because of my political work,” she said in a statement for Mijente, an organization to which she is a founding member. “I have spoken out to defend immigrants in detention and shared my story as an undocumented mother. I have sat in meetings with immigration officials and challenged their practices. They are an agency whose actions have already been devastating to my community. But with the letter they delivered to my house, they are showing themselves to be an agency that silences any opposition to their practices.”
ICE officers have increasingly been hammering down on undocumented immigrants who speak out against the agency. In the last month, Baltazar Aburto Gutierrez, a man who criticized ICE in an article for the Seattle Times, was detained, the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City’s executive director, Ravi Ragbir, and co-founder Jean Montrevil were arrested, and Eliseo Jurado, the husband of Ingrid Latorre, who has been seeking refuge from deportation in a Colorado church, was apprehended.
Organizers have already started resisting deportation efforts against Mora-Villalpando, starting with a series of Freedom of Information Act requests by the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights to determine if there was any collaboration between the Washington State Department of Licensing and ICE, which may have led to the agency obtaining Mora-Villalpando’s personal information.
“We will not allow ICE to deport Maru. Not only because we value her, but because we cannot allow a government agency that is already cruel and damaging to our communities to also silence our stories and deter our organizing,” Tania Unzueta, Mijente’s policy director, said in a statement.
She continued: “It is clear that Maru’s deportation notice is part of a Trump agenda that punishes people who oppose it. We are marking the moment in time when ICE agents are becoming Trump’s police force and targeting voices that counter their agenda.”