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Woman Jailed for 4 Months on Suspicion of Being Undocumented

Woman Jailed for 4 Months on Suspicion of Being Undocumented

In a case which proves, once again, that race plays a factor in the way individuals are treated in the justice system of Arizona, an innocent woman was arrested and jailed on the mere suspicion that she was undocumented. An editorial for the Phoenix New Times points out that the woman, Briseira Torres of Glendale, was arrested on three counts of forgery for using her real name and real identification after officials asked her for documentation.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) stated that although Torres used her real driver’s license, officials maintained that she was using a forged document. One of the only witnesses during the proceedings, an investigator, claimed that Torres’s birth certificate had been canceled because it was a forged document, a blatant lie which will probably foment very few consequences for the man in question.

She was held in jail for over four months without bail, a residual effect of the fact that after Prop 100 passed in Arizona, any undocumented immigrant who had committed a violent crime was to be denied bail, period. That frightening legislation was appallingly and loosely applied in this case when a Latino woman was merely suspected of forgery. As a result of her incarceration, she lost her house, her car, and was forced to separate from her 14-year-old daughter who she is raising alone.

Do I even have to mention that Briseira Torres was being held on false charges that no one was willing to investigate in any depth while she withstood the notoriously bad conditions of the detention facility of Estrella Jail? Just a small reminder of the fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man behind Tent City, is one of the star personalities in detention protocol in Arizona’s history.

Fortunately, two attorneys came to Torres’s aid quickly, Delia Salvatierra and Antonio Bustamente. They provided a statement from Arizona’s Office of Vital Records which forced the MCAO to drop the case, because it proved that her birth certificate was completely legitimate. Why didn’t anyone just go to Vital Records in the very first instance? She was finally released on August 3, but how can her mistreatment be addressed after she was wrongly accused of a crime of which she was innocent? Will the investigator who lied to convict a Latino woman face any charges for lying in a court of law? As Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks points out:

She was born in the United States. They didn’t care. The prosecutor in this situation didn’t even check the long-form birth certificate, right? And the judge who heard this case was like ‘What are you guys doing?’

Torres’ treatment at the hands of the MCAO is a clear example of how racial stereotyping and profiling is an integral part of the way immigration law is applied in Arizona. SB 1070 passed in Arizona back in 2010. The law makes it a misdemeanor not to have documented proof of immigration status on hand at all times. This law also makes it legal for law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship on “reasonable suspicion,” which often means making split-second decisions about the way a person appears to assess their situation.

Jan Brewer and other supporters of SB 1070, along with a whole long list of legislation, argue that the law is not racially motivated, and that racial profiling does not occur. Yet, if Torres’ treatment and the resultant stripping of her human and civil rights doesn’t prove the racially motivated understandings of citizenship and identity in Arizona, then just consider that in July, e-mails were unearthed from former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce that had clearly racial undertones when discussing the passing of SB 1070.

The editorial for the Phoenix New Times really puts it the most succicntly. Stephen Lemons gives a definition of the term nativism as “[I]ntense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e., ‘un-American’) connections.” Briseira Torres was forced into a position of a racially targeted victim at the hands of law enforcement, sealing Arizona’s fate as a laughing stock on the international stage. The incident also shows that those who are supposed to be protecting people from serious crimes, such as murder and assault, are spending their time attacking innocent citizens based on their appearance.

Related Stories:

Arizona Immigration Law Racially Motivated

Thousands Protest Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City Jail

Brewer, Arpaio Declare Victory After SCOTUS Defeat

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157 comments

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11:11AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

Arizona, you're wicked! And that goes for any other state that tries to harass people on the mere suspicion of not having papers. Add to that the DA that's putting a hold on the case to prevent a law suit. The law should protect the innocent and those employed to uphold the law should do the same!

10:46PM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

Considering what she lost, I went wandering through the internet looking for someone taking up a fund to help her get her home and vehicle back. There Wasn't One!!

I did read that her lawyers were considering putting a case together to sue the agencies that lied about her and caused her all this grief. It may be difficult however, because I also read that the DA has put a hold on this case so that he can re-charge her if he can find evidence that her documents don't hold up. Apparently this whole thing also is stemming from when she was 13 and lived with her dad in Mexico for a time. Her mother actually had to show up at the border to prove her daughter was born in the U.S.

1:10PM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

Infuriating! She definitely needs to sue! This is insanity!

1:46PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

@Diane L. [Dr C., how do you know it took that long to go before a judge? That is NOT what was stated in the article or in any article that was linked, nor in anything available to read online.]

There is this new thing called "Google", where one can type in words and it finds all those things you claim are not available to read online.

Try Google(Briseira Torres) for instance , and in about 1/4 of a second you'll get about 12,700 results.

Then try this other neat thing called "reading".

5:34AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Dr C., how do you know it took that long to go before a judge? That is NOT what was stated in the article or in any article that was linked, nor in anything available to read online. I never said it was up to her to PROVE herself innocent. I said she had been charged with 3 counts of a crime and there is a lot of information lacking in what we're being given as far as "facts". The truth is, she wasn't charged because she was "brown". Half the state is "brown" or some shade of "other than" white. That makes little sense. There aren't enough jails to hold everyone who isn't lily white if being "other than" is a crime.

I'm still curious as to why if her daughter is 14 years old, she couldn't have had SOMEBODY get Mom out of jail if she was 100% innocent of any wrong doing. Somebody would have had access to the ACLU or you'd think they would at least have tried, and the ACLU has enough influence to get somebody to address this outside of Arizona if it was just Arizona being out of control. There has been many other situations where the ACLU has stepped in and gotten results in far less time than 4-1/2 months when there was "just cause" for them to become involved.

I'm not defending Arizona, or anyone who was involved with this, nor am I against this woman in any way. Just saying there is a ton of stuff nobody here knows about and I found far too many inconsistencies in what IS available to just jump on some bandwagon of injustice having been done.

10:44AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

@Diane L. [Her daughter is 14. Daughter is old enough to know that Mom needed help in some way. So, during this 4-1/2 months, who took care of the daughter? Was she in a group home, foster care, or being taken care of by relatives? Why did nobody try to get Mom out of the slammer if she was who she said she was (and that seems to be factual) if that was the only thing in doubt?]

Actually it is not up to this woman or her family to prove themselves innocent of every "maybe", "possibly" or "if" that one might contrive.

The case was thrown out, as being too laughable to even merit a trial. This women is a genuine US Citizen whose documents are and always have been 100% valid and in order.
The only basis for even the suspicion was that she was "brown".

It took 4 1/2 months for her case to even make it in front of a judge. Arizona pretzeled the law so that there would be no bail, so that nothing the family might do could get the woman out of jail to tend to her personal responsibilities and financial obligations.

It was but good fortune that she had nearby family to care for her daughter, as otherwise the state would have made her into institutional cattle in count of coin.

7:29AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

I was tempted to post RT*A, but then I remembered Confirmation Bias.
It is quite possible that, given the long standing paradigm of the trusted legal system representing justice and fairness, one can read:
"She was held in jail for over four months without bail, a residual effect of the fact that after Prop 100 passed in Arizona, any undocumented immigrant who had committed a violent crime was to be denied bail, period. That frightening legislation was appallingly and loosely applied in this case...:
without fully digesting the reality of it.

6:45AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

DUH, Dr. C,,,,,,,,,,,did you NOT read what I said more than once about the fact that it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to have verified her I.D. as real or fake? Why would she have been incarcerated for that long if she had a public defender and was 100% innocent of any wrong doing? Her daughter is 14. Daughter is old enough to know that Mom needed help in some way. So, during this 4-1/2 months, who took care of the daughter? Was she in a group home, foster care, or being taken care of by relatives? Why did nobody try to get Mom out of the slammer if she was who she said she was (and that seems to be factual) if that was the only thing in doubt? WHO said the judge tossed out all charges of fraud or forgery? Maybe after 4-1/2 months, she was let out for "time served". I've seen or heard/read of child molesters and rapists who have done less time than that for far less but would you suggest that forgery or fraud just be given a "slap on the wrist" and the person told to just not do it again? In my state, it's automatic that anyone involved in a D.V. case (the one who didn't call 911) goes directly to jail and it's 30 days. Try a 2nd offense...........60 days.

5:35AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Ahh Arizona... the Hitlerist gateway to the land of the free... "Papers please!" lest you be guilty of driving while brown.

11:21AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

@Diane L. [.if she was charged with 3 counts of forgery and there was enough proof she'd committed said crimes, hen seems 4-1/2 months may have been justified. We're not getting the whole story here and many are jumping to conclusions.]

Feel free to do a little research as opposed to supposing and if-ing excuses.

The judge tossed out the entire case. It also turns out that the fraudulent document charges were totally bogus. The women's birth certificate and other documents had always been completely 100% valid.

It would have taken law enforcement but a single phone call and perhaps a FAX with the department of vital records to totally clear up the matter one way or another, but instead the women was made to rot in jail for 4 1/2 months, losing her car ,job, home and everything else.

As she was totally cleared using the same public records available to law enforcement, why indeed was she made to rot?

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