In June 2017, Maru Mora-Villalpando sat down for an interview with Whatcom Watch, an independent newspaper in her home county north of Seattle.
She talked about immigrating from Mexico, her path toward activism, and hunger strikes at the immigrant detention center in Tacoma, which she helped organize.
She also mentioned that she is an undocumented immigrant, having stayed in the United States longer than her visa permitted.
Mora-Villalpando's interview caught the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to public documents published by Mijente, a Latinx and Chicanx advocacy group.
The documents show that federal officials on December 18 identified Mora-Villalpando as a “deportable” immigrant after reading the Whatcom Watch article.
“Upon review of the article and available information regarding her situation, it should also be noted that she has extensive involvement with anti-ICE protests and Latino advocacy programs,” the document further states.
Mora-Villalpandohas suspected that she is being targeted for deportation because of her political activity. She told The Stranger over the phone that these documents provide the proof.
“I honestly started laughing because I knew that I was targeted for my political work," she said. “I did not expect they would be so clear, so bluntly clear that this is not only a political witch hunt, but also a racist witch hunt. It couldn’t be more clear that they are targeting my community. They don’t want me defending my community.”
A spokesperson for ICE said that the agency does not target people for their political views. "ICE does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate," said Lori Haley, ICE Western Region Communications Director.
She added, "Target information is based on intelligence-driven leads — that may include open source information."
Mora-Villalpando obtained the records from the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, who she has been in constant communication with since she received her notice to appear in immigration court.
On Friday, the immigration law firm Sunbird LLC filed a Freedom of Information Act for any other deportation documents on people who have spoken to the press about their immigration status or have engaged in immigrant rights activism, according to attorney Devin Theriot-Orr.
Mora-Villalpando received a notice that she has been entered into deportation proceedings in December. Previous records show that the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) sent ICE information on Mora-Villalpando on December 7.
The DOL came under fire earlier this year after the Seattle Times revealed it regularly gave undocumented immigrants’ information to ICE, in violation of an order by Governor Jay Inslee. Since that report, the department said it would stop giving immigrants' information to ICE.
Mora-Villalpando is not the first undocumented immigrant to come into contact with ICE after speaking to the media. On December 7, the Seattle Times reported that Baltazar Aburto Gutierrez, an Ocean Park clam harvester, got picked up by a federal agent who said, "You are the one from the newspaper.” Aburto Gutierrez had previously spoken to the Times about his girlfriend, who was also arrested by ICE.
This post has been updated with comment from ICE.