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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Bellingham fundraises to support immigration activist

By Julia Berkman

Nearly 100 people showed up in solidarity with immigration activist Maru Mora-Villalpando, who is in danger of being deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

The Alternative Library hosted a fundraiser for Mora-Villalpando on Friday, April 13, that included a silent auction, a salsa lesson from Rumba Northwest and music from Blue Root Quartet and Bilongo Quintet.

Emma Caro, a member of Blue Group, Western’s group for undocumented students, said it was nice to be in a space where everyone could celebrate their activism and efforts.

“It’s not just [for] one person, it’s a fight for all of us,” she said.

In attendance was Mora-Villalpando herself, as well as her daughter Josefina Mora, who gave a speech.

Mora-Villalpando has been a key organizer in the immigration activism community for over 20 years. In her work with the Northwest Detention Center Resistance, she has denounced deporting and detaining immigrants who do not have the sufficient paperwork to legally remain in the country.

She has been outspoken about her own immigration status – her tourist visa expired in ’90s.

Her daughter Mora, is a junior at Western and wrote a piece for The Western Front after her mother was served a court date by ICE. She was also among people who blocked Trump in Lynden during his presidential campaign trip.

Cy Be and Lauren Sweeten swing dance in front of the Blue Root Quartet at the fundraiser. // Photo by Julia Berkman

Mora-Villalpando believes serving deportation proceedings to activists is an intimidation tactic in order to destabilize long-standing immigration movements.

“It’s ethnic cleansing, is what it is,” she said.

Now, immigration activists across the Northwest are rallying to support Mora-Villalpando through fundraisers and events like this one.

According to organizers Andy Ingram and Aline Prata, this is an event meant to encourage Bellingham residents to show up for the causes they believe in and put their money or time where their Facebook posts are.

“I think it is critically important for white people to show up in solidarity with immigrant communities that are under threat from the current regime,” Ingram said.

Prata, who is the Master of Ceremonies for the event, agreed.

“This benefit is a great opportunity for people to see that there are ways for them to acknowledge their privilege and do work in solidarity, rather than in a philanthropic way,” she said.

Mora-Villalpando said the event felt like a social life she could have had, despite the current circumstances she is under.

The crowd watches Josefina Mora speak about her mother’s work with the Northwest Detention Center Resistance. // Photo by Julia Berkman

“The excuse of being here is not the best thing in my life right now, but it’s nice to see the community coming together and actually enjoying themselves. That doesn’t happen quite often in my life,” she said.

In her work with the Northwest Detention Center Resistance, Mora-Villalpando and others would bring art and music to their demonstrations outside the detention centers.

Both Ingram and Prata have worked with Mora-Villalpando.

“She has a powerful and unflinching voice, and her persistence and dedication to the movement are really inspiring,” Ingram said.

According to Prata, it’s even more important that a city like Bellingham, which is almost 80 percent white, produces a large turnout to an event like this.

“Bellingham is white for a reason. Our history is incredibly racist, and if you shy away from that because of white guilt, you’re not going to confront those issues and change them,” she said.

Mora-Villalpando agreed.

“Bellingham being so heavily white, it’s really critical that they, with all the privilege they have, take a position and take risks,” she said. “We have risked a lot already, it’s their turn. They shouldn’t be waiting any longer.”


*This article was corrected on May 1. Maru Mora-Villalpando was previously identified solely as Mora-Villalpando.


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