Detainee’s wife mounts hunger strike to support her husband

Veronica Noriega is coming to the end of a weeklong hunger strike outside Tacoma’s federal immigration detention center, in advance of her husband’s deportation hearing Tuesday.

Noriega, 29, started fasting and camping outside the Tacoma Tideflats detention center on Sept. 2. She says she will not eat until her husband’s proceedings.

Ramon Mendoza Pascual, 38, has been detained at the Northwest Detention Center for about a year, after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Noriega’s protest is in solidarity with hunger strikes inside the detention center this year, which Mendoza Pascual has helped lead.

Protesters in the center have called for better living conditions at the facility, an end to deportations and better access to bonds that would free detainees as they await deportation proceedings.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said during the protests that it is working with Congress to reform the immigration system.

Tuesday’s proceeding, Mendoza Pascual’s supporters say, could determine whether he gets a deportation date or is released on bond.

His DUI charge was dismissed, which his lawyer told the immigration court, his supporters said. They hope that will help them obtain a bond, and they hope to raise the money if an amount is set.

Mendoza Pascual and Noriega live in Auburn with their three children, who range in age from 6 to 14.

He is a carpenter, and she recently was hired as an organizer by La Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, an immigrant rights group.

Noriega said recently during her hunger strike that she was grateful for the response and support she’d received.

About 10 people camped out with her each night, and others joined to sing and chant in protest throughout the week, sometimes singing to detainees who called their cellphones.

Asked what she wants to change about the immigration system, Noriega said simply: “All of it.”

She hopes “they take how unjust the system is, and that they make it better,” she said, and that her actions “inspire other people.”

Personally, she said she hopes Mendoza Pascual can come home with her Tuesday.