Milton Cornejo locked arms with about a dozen demonstrators Monday morning to block access to the federal Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
They were among about 50 people trying to prevent vehicles from leaving the facility, saying that they didn’t want the vans leaving with people who are about to be deported on board.
“I’m also undocumented,” Cornejo said. But Cornejo said he’s willing to face deportation himself, so that other mothers and fathers someday won’t have to. “I was afraid before. I didn’t want to risk my security and freedom. But now I feel it’s time to help. I have a lot to lose, but it doesn’t matter because this fight has to end.”
The advocates staged this blockade as part of the national “Not One More Deportation” campaign. Their efforts have disrupted deportations at lockups in other cities including Chicago, Phoenix and Atlanta.
Angelica Chazaro was at the event and said they want to halt the steady rise of deportations since President Obama took office. Deportations reached a record high in 2012, with more than 400,000 people removed from the U.S. Demonstrators here also said they’ve turned to this new tactic out of frustration with Congress’ impasse on immigration reform.
Demonstrators arrived around 6:30 a.m. carrying signs that said “Not one more” and chanting, “We are people, we are not illegal!” The day was chosen strategically: Mondays are when the feds typically load detainees on busses to the airport, for a flight back to their home countries.
Tacoma’s detention center is the largest facility of its kind on the west coast. It holds enough beds for nearly 1,600 people who’ve been detained for immigration violations.
The facility’s staff declined to comment for this story.
One woman was arrested when she threw herself into the path of a vehicle attempting to exit the facility. Michelle Manrique was charged, then released back into the crowd. She said her husband was scheduled for deportation back to Mexico on Monday.
“They said the bus is already gone. My husband’s gone,” Manrique said after her release.
According to a statement from U.S. Customs and Enforcement, Miguel Angel Manrique-Valdez has been repatriated to Mexico five times since 1995, making him "an egregious immigration law violator and an enforcement priority."