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UN experts urge US to respect human rights defenders amid migrant activist deportation case

[JURIST] A group of UN experts urged [press release] the US government Wednesday to respect the rights of human defenders after concerns involving Maru Mora Villalpando, a Mexican immigrant activist who campaigns to protect migrants' rights.

Villalpando, co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, is facing deportation after leading a campaign against human rights standards in the privatized facility. According to the press release, her deportation proceedings, "received without warning, appear to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees."

Villalpando notified the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights [official websites] of hunger strikes, the deportation of migrants and possible corporate involvement in human rights violations.

In the press release, the experts said they were concerned that Villalpando's case appeared to be part of a pattern.

"People working legitimately to protect migrants' rights must not be restricted or silenced. Their rights must be upheld so they can continue to exercise their vital role."

Over the last several months, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [official website] has detained or deported several immigrant activists [WP report], leading to advocates questioning if the Trump administration is targeting political opponents—with immigration one of the administration's big agenda items.

Just last week, dozens of attorneys with the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders held a protest [JURIST report] outside of the Bronx Criminal Court after one of their clients was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents outside of the state courthouse. And Wednesday a second federal judge blocked [JURIST report] the Trump administration's repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

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