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

Deputy fatally shoots Auburn man

Man identified as Joshua Sarrett, 32.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Screenshot from fredhutch.org
Fred Hutch seeks volunteers of color for COVID-19 study

Research company recently released a Spanish-language version of the website for accessibility, inclusivity.

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

File photo
Man shot in chest found in Federal Way parking lot

Police are investigating the shooting which occurred near the Redondo Heights Park and Ride around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 20

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last week. The fire is listed as 84 percent contained, and fully lined. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Threat multiplier: How climate change, coronavirus and weather are scorching WA

Dry summer conspired with the pandemic and a wind storm.

Seven decades later, the search for two missing Navy pilots continues

The pilots are thought to have disappeared near Black Lake, northeast of North Bend.

Most Read