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ICE Is Sending Us a Message”: Activist Maru Mora Villalpando on Being Targeted for Deportation

StoryJanuary 17, 2018
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We end today’s show with undocumented activist Maru Mora Villalpando. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed her in deportation proceedings, in a move she calls retaliation for her political activism. Maru is a nationally known immigrant rights activist who leads the organization, Northwest Detention Center Resistance. She has engaged in multiple acts of civil disobedience to protest deportations and immigrant detentions. She says, only days before Christmas, she received a “Notice to Appear.” She writes, “With the letter delivered to my house, ICE has officially made the leap from a law enforcement agency to a political repression agency, crossing a line that should concern us all.” Maru has lived in the U.S. for more than 25 years.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! We end today’s show with undocumented activist Maru Mora Villalpando. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have placed her in deportation proceedings, in a move she calls retaliation for her political activism. Maru is a nationally known immigrant rights activist who leads the organization Northwest Detention Center Resistance. She has engaged in multiple acts of civil disobedience to protest deportations and immigrant detentions of others. She says, only days before Christmas, she received a “Notice to Appear.”

We go now to Seattle to talk with Maru Mora Villalpando.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! What exactly—what message did you get from ICE, Maru?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Good morning, Amy. I received a certified mail letter to my house, which is called “Notice to Appear,” that lists my name and the fact that I overstay a visa, my last entrance to the United States in 1996. And it says that they’re beginning deportation proceedings against me. The unusual part of the letter is that it doesn’t have a date for a hearing, and just the fact that I got it to my house. I don’t have any bills to my name. I’ve never had interactions with ICE that would lead to my deportation proceedings. I never had any interactions with police that would later involve ICE. So, altogether, it’s very strange.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think this is happening now, Maru?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Well, I mean, we’ve been saying this since the end of the Obama era. We have a deportation machine that has grown incredibly big. And when he 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 although their actions against immigrants, starting with their campaign, actually 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.”

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about when you came out as undocumented in 2014, what happened and how you feel this connects to then. That was during the Obama administration.

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: That’s right. Back in February of 2014, we did our first shutdown action in Tacoma, Washington, to bring attention to these horrible detention centers, like so many others—too many—around the nation. And it was part of this #Not1More campaign at the time, that was precisely having people, undocumented people, bringing attention and also putting ourselves on the line, saying, “If the system doesn’t stop, we will stop it.” So, it’s clearly a connection that the system doesn’t want us to continue fighting, and they’re doing everything they can to stop us.

We believe that ICE was created with a specific intention. It’s not only to deport people. It’s to destroy people. They are destroying our families. And now they’re becoming into a full circle to be part of the police regime. We think ICE is nothing but a political oppression apparatus. They’re Trump’s police now.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve had you on. We’ve had your daughter on, Maru. What are your plans now?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: We are going to continue fighting, my daughter and I. She was with me when I received the letter. She actually opened the letter. She was really angry. She said, “I can’t believe there’s people around that doesn’t—they don’t want to understand this is happening and how this is becoming a nightmare.”

But we decided to fight back. We decided we’re not going to hide, we’re not going to be afraid, because that’s what the system wants. That’s what ICE wants us to do. And instead, we’re going to fight back.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you have a time that you have to, quote, “check in”?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: We haven’t received anything. As a matter of fact, my lawyer requested a form, which ICE has to submit to the court, to the immigration court, saying why they want me to go to a court hearing and why am I being placed in deportation proceedings. ICE denied that letter, and my lawyer had to submit a Freedom of Information Act. And as of now, when I call the system on the phone, there’s nothing about my case. There’s no hearing date yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I mean, you have lived in this country for, again, over a quarter of a century. Do you see a connection between your case and the two cases we’ve just looked at—Jean Montrevil, who’s just been deported to Haiti yesterday, and Ravi Ragbir, who’s in detention and deportation proceedings in Florida, from New York, both immigrant leaders?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Absolutely, absolutely. We believe this is a clear targeting of people that have dared to not only question the system, but to fight the system, that we are outspoken, that we are public about it, that we’re not afraid. And it’s obviously clear that they’re going after us right now.

They will go after many others, not only undocumented, but documented, and even possibly U.S. citizens. Remember, Department of Justice is saying they’re going to review, along with Homeland Security, 150,000 records of U.S. citizens, naturalized, thinking that they’re going to revoke some of those citizenships.

AMY GOODMAN: Maru Mora Villalpando, I want to thank you for being with us—that does it for our show—speaking to us from Seattle.

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