Tacoma immigrant community pushes back against Supreme Court decision

For members of the Northwest Detention Center Resistance, Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on immigration reform was personal.

“We should not be sad. We should not be disappointed. We should be angry,” Maru Mora Villalpando, a local community activist with Surge Northwest, said Thursday at a press conference.

The conference was held in front of the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats. With a maximum capacity of 1,575, the facility is one of the largest immigrant detention centers in the country.

The Supreme Court’s deadlocked vote let stand a lower court’s decision that removed protection from deportation for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants with children in the United States.

Villalpando has lived and worked in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for more than 20 years. In that time, she said, she has seen the country treat undocumented black and brown bodies as commodities rather than people.

“A nation should respect the lives and humanity of its people,” she said. “The Supreme Court decision today shows we are not quite that nation.”

Lisa Segundo said she knows firsthand the exhaustion of living in fear of a loved one’s deportation.

She and her husband, who is undocumented, have three children together. While having children who are American citizens does not influence her husband’s status, the Obama administration’s immigration plan would have given him a path to protection.

“It’s not fair,” said Segundo, whose husband’s uncle is being held in the Northwest Detention Center. “They’re innocent people who have never done anything wrong in the U.S. They have families here.”

She said that because her husband illegally crossed the border into the United States twice, if he were deported, he would have to wait 10 years before he was eligible to apply for a visa.

Villalpando said that’s the result of the 10-year bar, imposed by the Clinton administration in 1996, that created a bottleneck of undocumented immigrants that has continued to grow.

“These systems play games with our life,” she said.

She said the Northwest Detention Center Resistance hopes to encourage President Barack Obama to impose a moratorium that temporarily put all deportations on hold.

As of Thursday morning, she said, an online petition started by the #Not1More Deportation campaign had 970 signatures.

As for Villalpando, she said she is not afraid her public stance on the issue will make her more of a target for deportation.

“We have to choose,” she said. “Do we get deported on our knees or fighting back?”

“We’re part of this community. We will continue to be part of this community. Our children will continue to be part of this community,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Hannah Shirley: 253-597-8670, @itshannah7