Updated Jan. 16 at 4:17 p.m. with statement from ICE spokesperson.
Immigration activist Maru Mora-Villalpando has received a Notice to Appear, which initiates deportation proceedings, from the Seattle Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, according to a press release.
Mora-Villalpando is the leader of Northwest Detention Center Resistance, an organization that fights deportations at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and founder of Latino Advocacy, which provides consulting for nonprofits on racial justice and immigrant rights. She has also been active in the Bellingham community and is the policy advocate and media coordinator for Community to Community Development, a local advocacy group.
Supporters see ICE’s action as part of systematic silencing of undocumented organizers, Tania Unzueta, Mijente Policy Director, said in the press release.
At a press conference in Seattle Tuesday morning, supporters said they suspected ICE was targeting Mora-Villalpando, and that they see this as a national trend of retaliation against activists.
“ICE only knows about me because of my political work,” Mora-Villalpando wrote in the press release. “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 has not yet responded to specific questions, but ICE public affairs officer and spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe issued a statement confirming that Mora-Villalpando is being charged with unlawful presence and her case is under legal review.
“All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” Pitts O’Keefe said in an email.
Mora-Villalpando has lived in the U.S. for over 25 years, according to the press release. She is the mother of Western student Josefina Mora.
Northwest Detention Center Resistance and Mijente have organized a petition asking that Mora-Villalpando’s notice to appear be withdrawn.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.