Immigration Activists Targeted for Deportation and Harassment
The more power government has, the more weapons that are available for officials to wield against people who rub them the wrong way. That’s true when it involves the (thankfully former) governor of New York abusing regulatory powers to cut gun-rights groups off from banks and insurance, and it’s also true when immigration officers selectively target activists for arrest and mistreatment in order to silence them and intimidate their allies.
“For years, activist Maru Mora-Villalpando has organized hunger strikes to protest conditions at an immigrant detention center in Washington state,” NPR noted in a recent story. “By 2017, she’d gotten the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One high-ranking ICE officer described her as an ‘instigator’ in an internal email. Another responded that Mora-Villalpando was a ‘well-known local illegal alien,’ and suggested that trying to deport her might ‘take away some of her ‘clout.'”
Targeting immigration enforcement efforts directly against people who protest and organize for changes in immigration law is an overtly politicized use of government power. Even those who like the law just the way it is, or who favor changes directly opposed to those advocated by Mora-Villalpando, should recognize the dangers of using enforcement as punishment. That’s especially true since her case is far from isolated.
“Federal immigration officers have long engaged in a pattern of surveillance of—and outright retaliation against—individuals advocating for immigrants across the country,” according to a recent report from the University of Washington School of Law Immigration Clinic. “Court filings, internal government records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and related litigation, and interviews with five immigrants’ rights organizations across the country—Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) in Chicago, IL; La Resistencia in Washington State; Grassroots Leadership in Austin, TX; Comunidad Colectiva in Charlotte, NC; and Migrant Justice in Vermont—reveal a sustained campaign of ICE surveillance and repression against advocacy groups and activists.”
The report goes on to detail the measures authorities take to identify and penalize activists, including placing them under close observation, harassing them, circulating their photographs, an
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