On February 22nd, undocumented activist Maru Mora Villalpando was invited by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies to speak at the lecture class for "Introduction to Labor Studies." There she informed hundreds of students about her ongoing work at the Northwest Tacoma Detention Center (NWDC) as well as about the oppressive history of immigration and labor.
One of the many resistance efforts Villalpando has participated in has been supporting the hunger strikes led by incarcerated people. In March 2014, inmates launched a hunger strike to protest conditions at NWDC. According to ICE, 750 detainees had refused meals. However it is likely that there have been more people involved. Protesters are calling for better food, speedier trials, lower commissary prices, and increased wages for labor.
A video that Villalpando showed to the class featured an inmate himself testifying of his experience at the detection center in which he has undergone labor exploitation, brutality done by the prison guards and nearly inedible food being served to the inmates. He was also part of a strike that occured on February 7th of this year, showing that the fight still continues. The importance of this video is to hear these issues from the people themselves, especially in an academic context where students usually aren’t exposed to issues by the people doing the groundwork.
Due to Villalpando’s presence in activism and resistance against labor exploitation towards undocumented immigrants, she has been targeted by ICE for deportation. ICE has sent her a notice to show up to the Seattle Immigration Court on March 15th for her deportation hearing. However, that hasn’t stopped Villalpando from being in public and continuing to be vocal about the ongoing issues at the NWDC as well as on a nationwide level. Hundreds of people showed up to the deportation hearing in support of Villalpando and it is important that the Seattle community continue to uplift activists who fight for the rights of all laborers.