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Woman Abandoned: U.S. Feminists Fail the Test

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Jul. 30, 2006 at 12:15 AM

A year ago U.S. feminist groups abandoned Maria Cuevas; this month it was an undocumented woman in Pomona.

POMONA, 29 July 2006--It slid under the radar, a little test of where U.S. feminists stand. An LA Superior court judge threatened to deport an undocumented woman, rather than granting her the restraining order she sought. On July 14 Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink asked Aurora Gonzalez whether she was in the country illegally. She answered affirmatively. Fink gave her a count of twenty to leave the courtroom or face his bailiff and deportation. He counted to six and, after Gonzalez left the courtroom, he dismissed her petition because she wasn’t present.

The judge patronizingly decided that Gonzalez would be better off in the custody of her abusive husband, who was both seeking citizenship for her and threatening her with deportation, than in the domestic violence shelter where she had been staying. The judge surmised that Gonzalez’s claims of verbal and emotional abuse, including her husband’s threats to have her deported, were “nothing more than some yelling and screaming between a husband and wife.”

Gonzalez and her children were left to live with her abuser or make their way in a country where she has no legal standing, not even protection from violence. This time, the judge’s order was reversed: Gonzalez received the temporary restraining order she requested, and she remains in the shelter. It turns out that, as a state judge, Fink had no standing to make such a threat. And under the Violence Against Women Act, undocumented women have the right to seek protection from abusers. But the message to undocumented women is chilling: if you have no papers, a local magistrate with no understanding of immigration law might just turn your children over to your abuser and turn you over to la migra. And once you’re in that system, it’s hell getting out.

So undocumented women will think twice about taking themselves and their children out of abusive households. They will stay put just a little longer in a home that is more apt to bring violence on them than walking through a bad neighborhood at night. Maybe they will stay just a little too long, just long enough for the emotional abuse to turn physical, just long enough to be punched or beaten or knifed or worse. And that will be just fine with the anti-immigrant crowd. Judicial Watch, the same group that is currently in court challenging Los Angeles’ police order against inquiring about a person’s immigration status, blogs that the judge erred in not deporting her immediately. A Conservative California blogger blithely ignores the woman’s safety and instead wonders, “Who is protecting the taxpayers of America from paying for her social welfare needs?” And husbands with papers now have a new weapon against wives without: in some courtrooms, at least, brandishing the stick of deportation while holding out the carrot of a green card is a legitimate means of spousal behavior modification.

Last year, feminist groups abandoned 11-year-old Maribel Cuevas to felony charges brought by Fresno police when she defended her little brother and herself by throwing a rock at water balloon-hurling bullies. Cuevas’s first language is Spanish. Those charges were eventually dropped; Gonzalez’s restraining order was eventually granted. The Hispanic National Bar Association, the California La Raza lawyers, the Mexican American Bar Association, Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, and the L.A. County Bar Association came to Gonzalez's defense. But, throughout their ordeals, neither Cuevas nor Gonzalez merited the public intervention of liberal feminist groups.

Judge Fink was dismissed from his temporary post, but not without getting his answer: documented women were notably absent in the case of this undocumented woman. They, like Judicial Watch, Conservative California, and the judge, would rip this woman away from her children and transport her to detention prison, so long as they remained safely within the system. Former Judge Fink found out where U.S. feminists stand: squarely behind their judiciary and their citizenship papers. Maybe they would give her a twenty-count head start.

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MALDEF, too Leslie Sunday, Jul. 30, 2006 at 12:36 AM

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