By Gene Johnson / Associated Press
SEATTLE — A longtime activist for detained immigrants in the Seattle area said Tuesday she herself is now facing deportation, and she accused federal agents of targeting her because of her political work.
Maru Mora-Villalpando, a native of Mexico City who has been in the U.S. for more than 25 years, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent her a certified letter last month demanding that she appear in immigration court, though no hearing has been scheduled.
“The only way they know about me is my political work, my public work,” she said. “I’ve never had a deportation proceeding. I’ve never had any contact with ICE. I’ve never had any contact with police that could trigger attention from ICE.”
Mora-Villalpando leads an organization called Northwest Detention Center Resistance, which was created in 2014 when detainees at the privately run immigration detention facility in Tacoma began a series of hunger strikes to protest their treatment. She has served as a spokeswoman for hunger-strikers there and has spoken publicly about being the undocumented mother of an American citizen.
ICE did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.
Mora-Villalpando said she believes ICE may have obtained her address from the state Department of Licensing, which came under fire this month after The Seattle Times reported that it had been providing driver’s license applications to ICE upon request. Gov. Jay Inslee, who has vowed that state workers would not act as immigration agents, ordered the practice halted immediately and accepted the resignation of a deputy director of the department.
Christine Anthony, a department spokeswoman, said Tuesday an internal review is ongoing and she did not have any information about whether officials had provided information about Mora-Villalpando to ICE.
Mora-Villalpando first came to the U.S. in 1992, and she last visited Mexico in 1996. She said she did not intend to remain in the U.S. permanently, but stayed after changes to immigration law that year would have prevented her from entering the U.S. again for 10 years.
She and her supporters said they will fight efforts to deport her.