Giving a Voice to the Undocumented

Living in Tacoma, you may be unaware that down in the Port among the factories and toxic zones is the country’s fourth-largest detention center housing hundreds of detainees, many of whom are undocumented people from Mexico, South America and Central America. Whether or not Tacoma residents were previously aware of this facility, very few ever get to hear these people’s stories.

A new radio show on KUPS gives students, faculty and local residents the opportunity to become educated about these undocumented individuals by hearing their testimonials. Sophomore Kelsee Levey and senior Andrea Nable host the show, which is called “No Más.”

“The point of the radio show is to advocate for the detainees in the detention center,” Levey said.

The two of them attended a panel on the detention center last semester where they were inspired to create the radio show.

“It was pretty successful,” Levey said. “We met this woman named Maru Mora Villapanto who spoke there; it was very powerful. We realized we could use school resources for something good,” Levey said.

In their case, the school resource was KUPS.

“I was first inspired by socially conscious, activist, rebel musicians like Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux,” Nable said. “I thought about how awesome it would be to share her empowering words with the detainees of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) through the radio, which they have access to inside. It evolved into the idea of a program where we share testimonies and poetry by the detainees and their families in order to get community support for immigrant justice and action against the detention center.”

Nable has been involved in other immigrant justice organizing efforts since last semester, including the non-profit Latino Advocacy and the NWDC Resistance.

Not completely aware of the amount of work that would go into producing a weekly radio show, the two of them jumped right in with no previous radio experience. After the first couple of weeks on the air, Levey says that it has been going well.

“The NWDC is a dehumanizing, anti-people-of-color, exploitive institution that goes invisible in our community and in our daily lives,” Nable said. “We at Puget Sound are in a special position to use our privilege to advocate for the detainees—whose stories are largely silenced—and work for their freedom by empowering their voices.”

Tune in to KUPS 90.1 fm on Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m. and Fridays from 12-1 p.m. to hear the show. On Wednesdays there is an hour of themed music, including everything from Mariachi to Latin Pop. Listening to Friday’s show presents an opportunity to hear from the detainees.

“We read their testimonials, we read poems from people who have had the undocumented experience or things similar to that,” Levey said.

As time goes on, they are hoping to make the show more interactive, including actual call-ins from the detainees.

“We are hoping to continue it and keep their voices heard,” Levey said. “KUPS isn’t just Puget Sound; it’s Lakewood and Gig Harbor, and almost to Olympia… and that’s a lot of people. If some people hear it, that’s all that matters.”