By Alexis Krell / The News Tribune
Maru Mora-Villalpando has led protests outside Tacoma’s immigration detention center for years, and the federal government recently put the undocumented activist in deportation proceedings.
Tuesday, she’ll attend President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, as the guest of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
“Trump’s police force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, came to my front door, so now I’m coming to his,” she said in a statement Monday.
A spokesperson for Cantwell, D-Washington, confirmed that Mora-Villalpando will be the senator’s guest for the address — the theme of which is: “Building a safe, strong and proud America.”
Mora-Villalpando came to the United States from Mexico and has lived here for more than 25 years. She currently resides in Bellingham. She has an adult daughter who is a U.S. citizen, who also plans to attend the address.
“Trump is attempting to rule through fear, terrorizing families like mine with detentions and deportations,” Mora-Villalpando said in the release. “I’m coming to the State of the Union in protest against this administration’s racist, xenophobic policies. Immigrant communities were fighting for our lives before Trump came to office, and now more than ever, we will continue to fight back.”
Mora-Villalpando helped start the Northwest Detention Center Resistance in 2014 to protest the federal immigration detention center on the Tideflats.
She’s led many demonstrations against detention and deportations outside the facility as part of that effort and has worked with other activist groups, such as Mijente and Detention Watch Network.
Earlier this month she accused U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of targeting her for that work by giving her a notice in December to appear in immigration court.
The News Tribune asked regional ICE spokesperson Lori Haley about the case Monday.
Haley emailed a statement that said Mora-Villalpando, who is not currently in ICE custody, was given the notice per federal law.
“She has been charged by ICE with being unlawfully present in the United States, and her case is currently under legal review,” the statement said in part. “All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States.”
Mora-Villalpando has said that she stayed in the U.S. after her tourist visa expired.