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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Supporters Of Hunger Strike Leader Gather In Tacoma Ahead Of His Planned Deportation

Buses used to trasport detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The center is operated by the GEO Group, a private contractor.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
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Buses used to trasport detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The center is operated by the GEO Group, a private contractor.

A few dozen demonstrators waved signs outside an immigration lockup in Tacoma this morning. They were there to support a detainee who led a large hunger strike inside the detention center last year.UPDATE: 2/24/15, 1:30 p.m. PT.

Early Tuesday morning, the Rios family in Oregon received word that Cipriano Rios was flown back to Nogales, Mexico, overnight, arriving there at 5:30 a.m.

Immigrant advocates call the schedule for Rios’ deportation unusual and suggest it was done in the dark to avoid confrontation with the crowd there in the morning.  An ICE official says fluctuations in the schedule are common, and the delay in Rios’ deportation flight was due to other factors.

Original Post: 2/23/15, 2:15 p.m. PT.

TRANSCRIPT

Just days ago, Cipriano Rios told his family and supporters that he’d been scheduled for deportation Monday and that he’d be removed from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma and put on a flight back to Mexico.

Last year, Rios helped organize hundreds of detainees to go on a hunger strike and call for better conditions at the center. The move sparked national attention and similar strikes elsewhere.

Maru Mora Villalpando is a community organizer who was at the Tacoma facility this morning along with several others.

Villalpando: “People just wanted to make sure that he knew how important he's been for our movement and how much we respect his leadership and his sacrifice at the detention center."

She said Rios stayed on hunger strike for 20 days and later spent time in isolation.

Rios was in detention a year and half fighting his case. He was initially taken in to immigration custody following a DUI arrest. His wife and children live in Oregon.

But Villalpando said there was no sign of Rios’ departure from the detention center Monday. Demonstrators have physically blocked deportation vehicles there in the past, and the center may have tried to avoid a similar confrontation.

Late Monday morning, local immigration officials said Rios is still in their custody, but they can’t disclose deportation plans.

Year started with KUOW: 2006