It took a decade, but a woman who was abducted as a teen has been reunited with her family after ten years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, including giving birth to her captor’s child. But the joy that comes with her return has been dampened with the realization that, if she hadn’t been so afraid because of our country’s immigration laws, she may have not spent so long abused, alone, and in hiding.
Like many kidnappings, the alleged victim knew her kidnapper; he was her mother’s ex-boyfriend. Yet despite the fact that her family would have known this assailant, she remained imprisoned, even forced to marry the man who abducted her. He held her to him by using her fear that she would be deported, returned to Mexico and separated from her family if she went to the police because she was in the country illegally.
“According to police, Garcia told her that if she tried to contact her family, the police would deport her to Mexico and that he was her only hope,” reports the Associated Press. “She was locked up at first, but she eventually began to lead what appeared from the outside to be a normal life. ‘Even with the opportunity to escape, after years of physical and mental abuse, the victim saw no way out of her situation,’ police said in a written statement.”
That a teen, then later a young woman, would find it safer to stay captive, even abused, than risk contacting the police or her family points out the intrinsic issues that we have with our country’s immigration laws. In what circumstances should anyone fear obtaining assistance to get out of a harmful and in this case decade long situation of ongoing abuse because it could result in her leaving the country?
Sadly, however, this has become a commonplace situation. In 2011, Republican state politicians were pushing extreme anti-immigration bills that would leave victims of crime in danger of being deported if they were in the country without documentation if they dared to report to the police. Lawmakers backing the bills in essence argued that if they wanted protection, they shouldn’t be in the country illegally in the first place.
“My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward,” argued a Massachusetts state representative pushing such a bill. “If you do it the right way, you don’t have to be concerned about these things.” He even went on to say that victims of crimes should rightly be deported, because only U.S. citizens have the right to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty.
What we are seeing in the case in California is the obvious end result of these punishing anti-immigration laws. According to reports, the alleged victim was just 15 when she come into the country illegally, and was there for just six months before she was drugged and kidnapped by her mother’s boyfriend after he got into a fight with her mother. She knew no English, and he kept her first locked away, then later obtained false papers in order to marry her, then kept her in his presence at all times, even getting them jobs together so he could watch over her. Between his constant presence and her belief that leaving him would get her returned to Mexico, there is little wonder she endured it for a decade before contacting police for help.
Our immigration laws have set up police as an adversary for those who are undocumented, especially women. They are afraid to report rape, domestic violence, even imprisonment and kidnapping. It is a literal market for abuse and slavery, all under the guise of protecting our country and our citizens.
It’s obvious that our immigration laws need a rehaul, despite the GOP’s reluctance to do so. But at the very least, we need to ensure that a person who has been victimized by a crime should feel safe in going to the authorities to report that crime without fear of repression or deportation. It is a necessary measure that will protect everyone, citizen or not.
No person should ever have to make the choice between a decade of sexual assault and being deported.
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