Laura S. didn’t have to die

This is the story of Laura S.

Laura was born in Mexico in 1986. She became involved with a boy, Sergio. Early on Sergio became violent. And Laura stayed with him. At the age of fourteen Laura S. gave birth to their first son, in 2001. She became a resident of Hidalgo County, Texas. She gave birth to two other sons by Sergio, in 2007 and 2005, respectively.

Sergio became increasingly violent and abusive. In March 2003, Laura obtained protection from the local police and courts. Sergio kept harassing Laura. In 2008, she obtained an order of emergency protection. Furious, Sergio returned to Mexico.

On June 8, 2009, Laura S. went out with a cousin and two friends. They were stopped near Pharr, Texas, by a local police officer for a minor alleged driving infraction. The officer then demanded their immigration papers. Only the cousin could produce papers.

“Laura S. began to weep, begging the officer to let her go.”

She explained about Sergio, about the threat to her life. She explained about the protective orders. She explained that her life would be finished, and violently so, if she were returned to Mexico. She talked about her three small children, one of whom was about to have surgery.

The police officer turned the three over to ICE. ICE took the three to Harlingen U.S processing center.

“On the way to Harlingen, Laura S. continued to weep and beg to be released.” More agents came in. Laura explained everything, again, to the federal agents. Laura wept and explained, explained and wept, begged and explained, explained and begged. No one listened.

Laura wept and trembled as she spoke with the agents. No one asked her any questions. No one tried to verify or evaluate her risk of harm. No one explained any of her legal rights to her. If Laura had had a hearing, even in Texas, there’s a good chance she would have been able to stay in the country.

Given the dangers Laura faced in Mexico, a hearing should have been “mandatory and non-discretionary”. Laura never saw Judge or lawyer. Instead, the federal agents decided on their own to ship Laura S to Mexico.

Although the agents intimidated and coerced Laura, she never agreed to go. She continued to beg and explain, to explain and weep, all the way to the Hidalgo/Reynosa international bridge. In the early morning hours of June 9, 2009, a mere few hours after having been stopped, Laura S. was forced to cross the bridge into Mexico.

Within a few days, Sergio found Laura, and slowly tortured and then brutally killed her. On June 14, less than a week after the traffic stop, Laura’s body was found in a burning car. Her mother went to Mexico and testified against Sergio, who was imprisoned. He later escaped.

Now Laura’s mother and her three young children are suing ICE and the Border Police.

Laura S. was forced to cross the bridge into Mexico. What authorizes that force? What is the the force that `gives’ a woman protection only to steal it at the moment its needed? What is the force that refuses to listen to or hear a woman begging for life? What is the force that refuses to recognize its own “mandatory and non-discretionary” rules?

That force is the regime of brothers, the fratriarchy, which underwrites national democratic sovereignty. One law protected Laura, but those federal agents understood that there is a more powerful law. There is the law of force that makes brothers of police agents on one side of a border and a torturer on the other. And the shuttle that binds them is always a woman.

And so Laura S, weeping and begging and explaining and trembling, was forced to cross the bridge. Her mother’s lawyer says, “Laura didn’t have to die.” Tell that to the State.

(Photo Credit: Proceso)

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.