About 80 people gathered on Tuesday afternoon in support of Maru Mora Villalpando, who entered deportation proceedings earlier this year. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

About 80 people gathered on Tuesday afternoon in support of Maru Mora Villalpando, who entered deportation proceedings earlier this year. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

A Seattle Battle of Deportation Vs. Freedom of Information

While facing deportation, Maru Mora-Villalpando has been denied public ICE documents that could show widespread targeting of immigrant rights organizers.

A sea of handmade banners bearing phrases such as “Hands off Maru!” and “Defend the Defenders” obscured the entrance to the Seattle Immigration Court Tuesday afternoon. About 80 people gathered around the palatial columns in support of Maru Mora-Villalpando, an outspoken undocumented immigrant rights activist who entered deportation proceedings last December. They’ll have to wait longer, as her second deportation hearing — scheduled for May 22 — was postponed to June 26.

“I’m not going to lie — I also feel sometimes weakened,” Villalpando addressed the crowd as she clutched a microphone in her right hand, and a pink flower in the left.

Mora-Villalpando told her supporters that she was infuriated when U.S. Immigration Judge Brett M. Parchert denied her motion to terminate the deportation proceedings a couple of weeks ago. In the motion filed in March, Mora-Villalpando argued that ICE violated her First Amendment rights, sending her a notice to appear in immigration court last winter as a retalitory act in response to her organizing efforts supporting immigrant detainees.

The judge also rejected her request that ICE testify at an evidentiary hearing about the procedures that they’ve used to round up Mora-Villalpando and other political activists. “We want to have ICE responding to us, and we’ll just have to come up with new ways of fighting my case. But at least it’s clear where the judge stands. He agrees with ICE—he doesn’t agree with us,” Mora-Villalpando told Seattle Weekly after Tuesday’s rally.

She and her attorney, Devin T. Theriot-Orr, recently filed a lawsuit against ICE in the District Court of Washington for violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to respond to a request for public documents that allegedly show the organization’s biases when initiating the removal proceeding. By law, ICE has 20 business days — along with a possible 10-day extension — to respond to FOIA requests, but the request filed in February went unaddressed.

Form I-213—a document that initiates removal proceedings—showed that Mora-Villalpando came to authorities’ attention when she discussed her undocumented status in a June 2017 Whatcom Watch Online article. The form also noted her “extensive involvement in anti-ICE protests and Latino advocacy programs.”

Maru Mora-Villalpando’s second deportation hearing was rescheduled for June 26. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

Maru Mora-Villalpando’s second deportation hearing was rescheduled for June 26. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

Mora-Villalpando and her legal team suspect that her case is indicative of a widespread practice in which organizers are targeted for their political leanings. The FOIA request also asked for records that showed enforcement actions against other activists involved in anti-ICE activities or political organizing. ICE’s response to the lawsuit is due in early July.

“We think the documents in Maru’s case … really speak to themselves in terms of the political nature of the reasoning behind them initiating removal proceedings against her, and we are quite certain that Maru is not the only one,” Theriot-Orr told Seattle Weekly. “They picked a fight with the wrong person, and Maru’s not going to just roll over and let them do what they will.”

At Tuesday’s demonstration, Mora-Villalpando also sought to highlight the other people facing deportation who don’t have hundreds of supporters to rally behind them. According to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, nearly 60 percent of the 388 people who received a ruling in deportation proceedings at Seattle Immigration Court from October to December 2017 were ordered to be deported.

Mora-Villalpando recounted the recent calls she’s received from detainees at the Northwest Detention Center that have reminded her she’s not alone. “When I started thinking about that, then I realized I should not feel weak,” she said. “I should continue fighting; I should feel the strength, because if they make it I should make it.”

Mhellmann@seattleweekly.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Photo of promotional recruitment banner used by Auburn Police Department at Petpalooza. The banner features Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson, who is awaiting trial for the 2019 murder and assault of Jesse Sarey. Photo courtesy of Jeff Trimble
Auburn police use photo of embattled officer on recruitment banner

Families of people killed by Jeffrey Nelson, who’s awaiting trial for murder, speak out over use of his photo at Petpalooza.

T
Use your King County library card to explore the outdoors

KCLS cardholders can check out a Discover Pass for two weeks to explore public lands.

Monkeypox virus. Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.
King County identifies first presumptive monkeypox case

The illness is not as easily transmitted compared to COVID-19, according to health officer.

This screenshot from Auburn Police Department bodycam footage shows an officer about to fire his weapon and kill dog on May 13, 2022.
Auburn police shoot dog, and owner claims it wasn’t justified

See videos of attack as well as bodycam footage of officer firing at dog.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Diane Renee Erdmann and Bernard Ross Hansen. Photos courtesy of FBI
FBI arrests Auburn couple after 11-day manhunt

The couple was previously convicted for fraud and skipped sentencing on April 29.

Most Read