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

More in News & Comment

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

‘I will pay the fines’: Property owner violates city code with large sign opposing marijuana retail in Federal Way

Sign stirs controversy over property owner’s donation of building space to city for potential police substation.

Former classmates, teachers remember murdered Federal Way teen

Sarah Yarborough was strangled on FWHS campus in December 1991; her suspected killer was arrested nearly three decades later on Oct. 2.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Two Federal Way gang members charged with murder of teen dumped in Green River

Suspects allegedly brutally beat boy with a bat, chopped him with a machete before dismembering and dumping his body.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Bellevue is the most expensive place in the region to rent an apartment, according to a new analysis. Courtesy photo
Several King County cities are among most expensive to rent in Northwest

Bellevue topped the list for highest apartment rents during the first half of 2019.

Covington man arrested for 1991 cold case murder of 16-year-old Federal Way girl

The body of Sarah Yarborough, 16, was found on the Federal Way High School campus in December 1991.

Most Read