Government drops deportation case against immigration activist Maru Mora Villalpando

As a sign of a change in immigration policies under President Joe Biden, the government dropped a deportation case against prominent activist Maru Mora Villalpando and granted her legal permanent residence.

Mora Villalpando and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed a joint petition making the request, according to his attorney Devin Theriot-Orr. An immigration judge approved the petition last week, noting that the activist has a 24-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen, Mora Villalpando and his attorney said.

The ruling ends a four-year case against Mora Villalpando, 50, who arrived in the United States from Mexico 25 years ago on a long-expired visa, and who has become well known for his advocacy in favored immigrants, especially inmates at the Northwest Ice Center in Tacoma.

“It’s a huge victory,” said Mora Villalpando. Not yet in possession of the physical green card, the Seattle resident and consultant to nonprofits and community groups said as soon as she got it, that she planned to travel to Mexico to see her siblings and other relatives – this will be the first time in a quarter of a century – and was getting used to a new identity that did not include the word “undocumented”.

“It sounds weird,” she said, recounting how she had to keep from describing herself that way in a meeting the other day. “It’s part of who I am.

Mora Villalpando said it’s especially important to show that the ICE, under Biden, has the ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion, which all but ceased under former President Donald Trump.

ICE filed a lawsuit against Mora Villalpando in 2017, and she said she felt targeted by ICE because of her activism. An arrest document from the ICE said she came to the agency’s attention after giving an interview in which she spoke of being undocumented. “It should also be noted that she is heavily involved in anti-ICE protests and Latino advocacy programs,” an ICE officer wrote on the document.

At that time, her daughter was a student at Western Washington University who was not yet 21 and therefore was unable to sponsor Mora Villalpando for a green card.

The ICE did not detain Mora Villalpando while seeking to expel her from the country, and it continued to organize protests and send out press releases about the conditions in the detention center. As she broke news of her case on Tuesday, she said a group she heads, La Resistencia, will hold a protest outside the ICE office in Seattle on Thursday to demand the agency exercise discretion. in all cases of expulsion.

The ICE regularly uses the discretion Biden announced when he took office, even as a lawsuit from the states of Texas and Louisiana makes its way through the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A U.S. District Court judge temporarily blocked the policy, which focuses on those determined not to pose a threat to public safety, saying it violates immigration laws.

“Prosecutors’ discretion is firmly entrenched in all aspects of the US legal system as an important tool for preserving limited government resources, enabling agencies to focus those resources on the most important cases, and for achieving results. fair and equitable, “ICE said in a statement. .

“We see this happening every week now,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, referring to deportation cases the government has agreed to drop or at least stay.

In many cases, the Biden administration faces the legacy of the Trump era.

In November 2019, an Everett welder and US citizen named Carlos Rios was arrested outside Pierce County jail where he was suspected of riding his motorcycle while intoxicated. He had his passport with him at the time, according to a lawsuit filed by Rios in US District Court in western Washington. Yet he was taken to the Tacoma Detention Center and detained for a week.

Earlier this month, the government agreed to a $ 125,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by Rios. “The government made it clear that they screwed up,” said Adams, whose organization represented Rios. ICE declined to comment.

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