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Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


Latin America
Women & Children at Risk
Title:  Mexican Rape Victim to be Deported
Publisher:  (c) 2004 Associated Press
Publish Date:  2004-04-24


An immigration judge ordered the deportation of a Mexican woman who was convicted of conspiring to kill a man who raped and terrorized her for five years after she arrived in the United States as a
teenager. Maria Suarez, who was a permanent U.S. resident, served 22 years in prison before being paroled last year. Suarez, 43, was
seeking to stay in the United States with her ailing mother and eight
siblings, all of whom are U.S. citizens, but a federal law requires
non-citizens convicted of violent crimes to be deported after their
release from prison. Judge Rose Peters made the decision during a
closed hearing at a federal detention facility where Suarez is being
held. Suarez's niece, Patricia Valencia, said her aunt will appeal
the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. "We didn't wish for
us to have to go this route," Valencia said. "We are very sad, but at
least she knows she is not going to go anywhere for the next few
months. We are very hopeful we will succeed on appeal."  Rep. Hilda
Solis, D-Calif., who has lobbied state and federal officials on
Suarez's behalf, also was disappointed. "Today's ruling sends the
wrong message about our federal government's commitment to combat sexual trafficking and domestic violence," she said.

Bill Strassberger, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, said the case appears to be "very compelling, but there's a real burden to overcome, which is the
conviction and the amount of jail time that she served," he said.
Suarez is seeking an asylum visa under a federal law to protect
victims of human trafficking and crimes.

Her case began in 1976, when she came to Los Angeles County legally from a small town in Mexico. She was forced to work for Anselmo Covarrubias, who claimed to be a witch doctor. Police later said he had a history of buying Mexican girls. Covarrubias, 68, was
eventually killed by a neighbor. Suarez cleaned and hid the weapon
and was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was tried before California recognized
what is now known as battered-woman syndrome and before federal laws were enacted to protect immigrant victims of sex trafficking. In
addition, her lawyer at the time was fighting his own felony
drug-trafficking conviction and was disbarred two years after the
trial. Suarez's case has attracted support nationwide and abroad.
Earlier this month, the wife of Mexican President Vicente Fox wrote
an open letter, published in the Mexican press, on Suarez's behalf.
More than 30 Democratic and Republican members of Congress signed a letter this week urging Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to grant Suarez asylum.