Human Rights Defenders

Across the country, recent reports suggest ICE and CBP are targeting non-citizens who speak out about their abuses for enforcement action. To examine the prevalence of such practices in our state, UWCHR researchers are investigating the ways in which ICE determines whom to target for immigration enforcement, and the manner in which disciplinary, transfer, and other decisions are made at the privately-run Northwest Detention Center. We are also documenting specific cases of local leaders who have apparently been targeted in retaliation for speaking out about human rights violations.

Maru Mora-Villapando answers questions following press conference and rally in Seattle.

Northwest Detention Center Resistance co-founder Maru Mora-Villapando was targeted for deportation by ICE.

The possibility of ICE targeting its critics for politically-motivated retaliation raises grave human rights concerns. The right to free speech is among the bedrock rights provisions inscribed the U.S. Bill of Rights, applicable to citizens and non-citizens alike. Related principles are also reflected in a raft of international rights agreements protecting rights to free expression and mandating special safeguards for human rights defenders who use their speech to defend the rights of others. While ICE says it’s not targeting these individuals for their political views, simply because they’re undocumented and hence deportable, the agency’s own documents often call such claims into question. What’s more, the agency has argued that immigrants it deems “deportable” should have no access to the courts to defend their first amendment rights, leaving the agency entirely unchecked in its actions against its opponents.

We will continue to research these patterns and practices, and to support to rights defenders in their efforts to ensure human rights for all people.