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Solis, Capito, Slaughter and 31 Other Members of Congress Urge Ridge to Help Maria Suarez

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Location: Washington, DC


Solis, Capito, Slaughter and 31 other Members of Congress Urge Ridge to help Maria Suarez

WASHINGTON- Today, Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Secretary Asa Hutchinson, urging them to help Maria Suarez, a trafficking victim and battered legal immigrant, to stay in the United States. The letter was also signed by 31 other Members of Congress.

"The United States is a beacon of light around the world because of its commitment to human rights. Our government should honor this commitment by recognizing the extreme sexual abuse and violence suffered by Maria Suarez in this country and allow Maria to remain in the U. S. with her family. This is a clear humanitarian case that deserves justice," said Congresswoman Solis.

Maria Suarez is a child sex trafficking victim. Two weeks after she entered this country legally from Mexico at the age of 16, she was lured from her home by an unknown woman and sold to Anselmo Covarrubias for $200. He held her captive for 5 years, during which time he raped, battered, and tortured her.

In 1981, Covarrubias was killed by a man who rented one of his houses, and the killer and his wife implicated Suarez in the crime. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of Covarrubias. Unfortunately, Maria's trial occurred before California began allowing battering and its effects to be considered as evidence. Therefore, the jury never heard about the abuse Maria suffered at the hands of Mr. Covarrubias. Due to her extreme case, Governor Schwarzenegger granted Suarez parole in December 2003.

Under immigration laws, Suarez is subject to deportation due to her conviction. A deportation hearing on her case is scheduled to take place on April 23, 2004.

On January 28, 2004 Solis and 16 other Members of the California Congressional Delegation sent a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urging him to consider granting Ms. Maria Suarez a pardon. Governor Schwarzenegger declined to pardon Suarez. Solis also sent letters to Homeland Security Assistant Secretary, Michael Garcia and Homeland Security Attorney General, John Ashcroft.

The Members of Congress that signed the letter Congresswoman Solis circulated included: Shelly Moore Capito (CA-R), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (NY-D), Josheph Pitts (PA-R), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-D), Carolyn Maloney (NY-D), Sam Farr (CA-D), John Conyers (MI-D), Janice Schakowsky (IL-D), Juanita Millender-McDonald (CA-D), Raul Grijalva (AZ-D), Joseph Crowley (NY-D), Henry A. Waxman (CA-D), Jose Serrano (NY-D), Xavier Becerra (CA-D), Luis Gutierrez (IL-D), Robert Wexler (Fl-D), Lane Evans (IL-D), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-D), Lois Capps (CA-D), Dennis Kucinich (OH-D), Barbara Lee (CA-D), Tammy Baldwin (WI-D), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH-D), Maxine Waters (CA-D), Jerrold Nadler (NY-D), Linda T. Sanchez (CA-D), Karen McCarthy (MO-D), Lynn Woolsey (CA-D), Ciro D. Rodriguez (TX-D), Joe Baca (CA-D), Susan A. Davis (CA-D), Zoe Lofgren (CA-D) and George Miller (CA-D).

The text of the letter follows:

April 21, 2004

Dear Secretary Ridge/Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson:

We are writing regarding the case of Maria Suarez (Alien # 36640042), whose removal order is pending before the Executive Office of Immigration Review in San Pedro, California. We urge you to give every careful consideration to the case of Ms. Suarez, a trafficking victim and domestic violence survivor.

Ms. Suarez entered the U.S. legally from Mexico at the age of 16. Two weeks later she was lured from her home by an unknown woman and sold to Anselmo Covarrubias for $200. For five years, Covarrubias enslaved Suarez and repeatedly raped, battered, and tortured her.

In 1981, Covarrubias was killed by a man who rented one of his houses, and the killer and his wife implicated Ms. Suarez in the crime. Suarez was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder. The killer and his wife later admitted that Ms. Suarez was not involved in the murder. In addition, the attorney that represented Ms. Suarez was disbarred after the trial and has since admitted that he completely misrepresented her.

While in prison, Maria earned her GED, enrolled in college-level courses, and contributed to numerous volunteer programs. Two decades after her incarceration, the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) determined that Ms. Suarez was the victim of extreme violence, abuse, and torture at the hands of Covarrubias and recommended her release. They called Ms. Suarez's case "one of the most egregious instances of Battered Woman Syndrome that [the BPT has] ever investigated." Unfortunately, evidence of battering and its effects were not allowed into evidence at the time of Ms. Suarez's trial.

Based on the BPT's findings, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger granted Ms. Suarez parole on December 16, 2003. However, immigration laws were amended in 1996 to provide for the deportation of long-term legal permanent residents who had been convicted of crime. As a consequence, persons wrongly convicted of a crime in America must still be deported, despite their innocence. However, it is our understanding that the United States Department of Homeland Security has the authority to dismiss removal proceedings under certain compelling circumstances. In this regard, we urge you to allow Ms. Suarez to remain in the United States with her family.

The United States is a beacon of light around the world because of its commitment to human rights. In keeping with this commitment, we should give immigrant survivors of domestic violence and trafficking victims a genuine opportunity to explain their circumstances before federal authorities. Failure to take such action could send a wrong message around the world about the United States' commitment to combat domestic violence and trafficking.
After reviewing her record, we trust that you, too, will find Ms. Suarez's case to be tragic. Again, we urge you to give every careful consideration to her case.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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