The Latest Attempt by ICE to Silence a Radical Voice

Erik Hazard | 01.22.2018

Photo by Michael Fleshman, CC / BY.

Maru Mora Villalpando, a prominent immigrant rights and labor organizer who has resided in the United States for over 20 years, recently received a ‘Notice to Appear’ – the initial step in the deportation process.  Maru joins a list of several prominent activists such as Jean Montrevil, Ravi Ragbir, and others who have been targeted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) agency in recent months.  Maru is convinced this a clear demonstration of political oppression from the government which is suppressing people  “that have dared to not only question the system, but to fight the system […]”

Maru has been at the forefront of the immigration and labor justice movements while also participating in movements to end the structural injustices of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. Maru has been  remarkably active in the struggle against the barbarous and inhumane  immigrant detention facilities.  She played a significant role in the hunger strikes protesting the detestable conditions and extreme exploitation at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.  She has sat in on countless meetings with I.C.E. officials and directly contested them.

In times of economic and political crisis, the most vulnerable are often scapegoated and criminalized by those in power.  Those who organize labor and fight back, who speak out against injustice, have historically been politically targeted for deportation by the United States government illustrated by the 249 radicals deported shortly after World War I.  The criminalization of those like Maru is structurally linked to our global economic system which has dispossessed, displaced, and forced people to leave their countries of origin.  Policies such as NAFTA spearheaded by the U.S. would devastate Mexico’s corn production, ultimately pushing an estimated 2 million small farmers off their land and creating a tide of undocumented immigration northward.

Our food system is deeply interwoven with immigrant labor.  Undocumented labor makes up at least a third of the 5 million farmworkers in the United States while a sizeable proportion in the meat processing and food-service industries are also ‘unauthorized’ to be in the United States.  Our food system relies on the “cheap”labor of precarious migrant workers.  Immigration and other regulatory policies prevent undocumented workers from gaining benefits, labor protections, and sufficient wages, thus subsidizing industries which rely on cheap labor.  Such policies seek to undermine worker organizing. The attacks on Maru and other labor and immigrant rights leaders is a strategy for further silencing, suppressing, and controlling those leading us toward a more just future.

While the current president made scapegoating people of color and the working poor a core part of his platform, President Trump inherited a system already put in place over a process of a few decades.  Maru vehemently protested Barack Obama’s intensification of deportations and his expansion of the oppressive immigration regulatory regime, one which Donald Trump inherited, accelerated, and further politicized.  Maru rightfully states that while government agencies are currently hunting down the most vulnerable, they may eventually go after anyone who is a threat to the status-quo.   Those who speak out against injustice can and have been targeted by a system which demands profit over people.

However, Maru and others like her have dared to come out in the open, speak out, organize, and take on the deeply racist and classist structures embedded in our capitalist system.  Despite I.C.E.’s intimidation, Maru has said that she will not stop.  Food justice movements must stand behind and struggle with Maru and all those fighting for liberation from our unjust immigration system. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because the transformation of our food system depends upon it.

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We can start now by signing this petition to rescind the deportation order against Maru and unite in solidarity with those on the frontlines defending their communities and building a brighter, more just future.