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caption: Immigration activists maintain social distancing while protesting outside of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on March 30, 2020.
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Immigration activists maintain social distancing while protesting outside of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on March 30, 2020.

A caravan protests outside the Tacoma immigrant detention center

Immigration activists are pushing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, arguing the coronavirus outbreak is a threat to the detainees' health.

But under state mandates regarding coronavirus precautions, the protest that happened Monday and Tuesday had to get a little creative.

"We kept our social distance by having people driving, staying in their cars and honking," says Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigration activist with La Resistencia.

The caravan of of cars was in support of a hunger strike that started last Friday and is part of a larger national week of action with events also popping up in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The detainees and activists are asking for humanitarian visas for those inside, the release of vulnerable individuals, and for deportation and immigration proceedings to cease until the pandemic has ended.

Mora estimates 300 detainees are now part of the hunger strike.

A spokesperson for ICE says "rumors" of the hunger strike are "inaccurate" as detainees can refuse cafeteria food but still buy food from the commissary. The agency also said it respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.

Three detainees from the NWDC were recently released by ICE.

This comes after a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued the agency to release nine vulnerable individuals with health conditions.


ICE says so far, no detainees at the Northwest Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.