President Donald Trump’s administration just took another step toward creating a police state, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the cutting edge as it begins to deport immigrants who actively campaign against our unjust immigration laws or, for that matter, even make the mistake of talking to the press.
This hit home when an old friend of mine, Maru Mora-Villalpando, got a letter from ICE telling her that they were initiating deportation proceedings against her.
Maru has lived in the United States for 25 years, raising a daughter as a single mom. She’s supported herself and her daughter all that time, mainly as an organizer.
Certainly, there’s no reason she would have come to ICE’s attention except for her organizing.
She’s committed no felonies and has not been picked up in any raids or immigration blockades, in spite of living within 100 miles of the border. But ICE knew her address.
When asked why she thinks ICE sent her a letter instead of detaining her, Maru replied that it’s because they know if she was in a detention center, she’d start organizing the detainees.
Maru is indeed a good organizer, as well as an effective and passionate speaker.
Her recent work, organizing support for immigrants locked up at the Tacoma detention center, is in a centuries-old American tradition.
A Mexican national, her years of organizing place her squarely within the tradition of American dissent — if you see something wrong with what’s going on, you do something about it.
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Of course, it’s also an American tradition to lock up or otherwise silence troublemakers, especially if they challenge the established order.
Undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable. They have no right to a public defender, and the “due process” involved in immigration proceedings is sketchy at best, with immigration courts conducting group hearings of detainees, ostensibly because of the overloading of the immigration court system.
Unless someone in deportation proceedings voluntarily agrees to be deported, they may be locked up for months or even years in centers that lack amenities such as exercise rooms, outside space, libraries or sufficient computers to research their defense.
In reality, people who contest deportation are serving indefinite sentences in what have to be called prisons — if it’s run like a prison, and you’re treated like prisoners, it’s a prison.
Maru came to the U.S. on a tourist visa. Instead of returning to Mexico, she built a life here and became a valued part of the community.
A few years after her arrival, a change in immigration law meant that she would have to return to Mexico for 10 years before she could apply to enter the country legally.
With a daughter born in the United States, a job and a community, she was stuck in limbo, unable to return without sacrificing her family’s future and her own life here and unable to move forward to full citizenship in the United States.
The realization of this dilemma may have been what motivated her increasing activism.
Let’s make no mistake: If Trump has his way, criminalizing and deporting immigrants is just the first step. This historical era wouldn’t be the first in which “revocation of citizenship” has been proposed as a way of disposing of radicals and activists who challenge the government, or when scapegoated races and ethnic groups, as well as radical activists, have been swept up in government raids.
The appointment of far-right judges to the federal court system and the already extra-legal tactics that ICE uses in its sweeps are a threat to all of us — to Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos and others in particular — but, ultimately, to anyone who gets on the wrong side of those in power.
Mike Wold is a regular volunteer and contributing writer for Real Change. He is a 25-year resident of Rainier Valley.
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