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Christmas no holiday for Tacoma detainee and his family

It was a difficult Christmas for Ramon Mendoza Pascual at Tacoma’s federal immigration detention center, his family said.

He’s one of many detainees who went on hunger strikes several times this year to protest deportations and conditions at the center on the Tacoma Tideflats. He spoke to The News Tribune in March about helping rally detainees for the strikes.

Supporters had hoped he’d be released on bond in time for for the holiday, but now are looking at possibly a January release.

Mendoza Pascual has been at the Northwest Detention Center for more than a year, after he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Mendoza Pascual’s wife, Veronica Noriega, and their three children visited him at the center Christmas morning.

Asked how the visit went, she answered that holidays “are difficult.”

Noriega held her own hunger strike for a week before one of her husband’s immigration hearings in September.

GEO, the company that contracts to run the center, has disputed allegations that living conditions there should be improved.

The detainees who argued for better conditions were recognized earlier this month.

The group responsible for the hunger strikes, known as the Colectivo de Detenidos, earned the Seattle Human Rights Commission’s 2014 Organization Human Rights Leader Award.

Maru Mora Villalpando, one of the activists who helped support the detainees from the outside, said the group planned to mail the information and a photo of the award to the Colectivo leaders, since they couldn’t accept the award in person.

“That speaks of their character,” she said. “That even the city of Seattle is recognizing that they are fighters for civil rights and human rights. They felt recognized.”

Noriega said her husband was happy to hear about the award.

He was also pleased to hear about President Obama’s recent executive action that allows parents of children who are U.S. citizens to stay in the country without fear of deportation.

The president’s action won’t affect Mendoza Pascual because of his DUI, but it might help his family, including Noriega.

The couple’s children are 13-year-old Jose, 11-year-old Veronica and 6-year-old Ashley.

Ashley started kindergarten this year.

“I don’t have homework,” she said. “Just sometimes.”

She showed off Christmas gifts of a small pony statue she had started to paint and a blanket with the character Anna from the movie “Frozen” on it.

It was a small Christmas. Mom worked for several hours after visiting the detention center, helping clean houses, which she does now and then, in addition to her work in support of the detainees.

The family didn’t have a special holiday dinner but did go to a friend’s house for a Christmas Eve meal, Noriega said.

Now the family waits to see whether a January release for Mendoza Pascual is possible, so he can continue his immigration proceedings from home.

“We’ll see what happens,” Noriega said.

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