Mexican Mom Murdered Days After She Begged Authorities to Keep Her Away From Violent Ex
A policeman stands guard as supporters and opponents of Arizona's immigration enforcement law face off in July.
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Despite a protective order from a Texas judge and her pleas that her ex-boyfriend would kill her if she were deported, immigration officials returned a woman to Mexico and within days he strangled her to death, her family claims in court.
Maria S. sued four unknown U.S. immigration officials in Federal Court, on behalf of the three minor sons of her late daughter, Laura S.
An Hidalgo County Judge granted Laura an emergency order of protection against her children's father, Sergio H., in 2008, after he assaulted her with a knife, the children's grandmother says in the complaint.
"Enraged, Sergio H. later returned to Reynosa, Mexico, where he reportedly worked with a notorious drug cartel," the complaint states. "On June 8, 2009, Laura S. was enjoying an evening with her cousin and two friends. They were stopped near Pharr, Texas by a local Department of Public Safety ('DPS') officer at approximately midnight for a minor alleged driving infraction.
"The DPS officer then demanded their immigration papers, which only Laura's cousin was able to produce. Laura S. began to weep, begging the officer to let her go. She explained that her ex-boyfriend was in Mexico with a drug cartel, was extremely violent towards her, and had threatened her life. She also said that she had obtained protective orders against Sergio H., and that he would kill her as soon as she appeared in Mexico. She further stated that she had three small children and that one was scheduled for surgery."
But the state trooper turned her over to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, who took them to the immigrant processing center in Harlingen.
On the way Laura S. tearfully pleaded with defendant ICE Officer Doe, to no avail, that she had three small children and her ex would kill her if she returned to Mexico.
"When the group arrived in the Harlingen immigration center, they were taken to a small office for fingerprinting and paperwork. The defendants 'Mark Moe,' 'Robert Roe,' and 'James Loe' then entered the room as well. All were agents of Homeland Security, U.S. CBP and/or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ('ICE'). John Doe remained in the room with them and assisted with the processing," the complaint states.
"Laura S. was weeping and trembling and spoke with the defendants. Once again she explained that her ex boyfriend was in Mexico with a notorious drug cartel, was extremely violent towards her, and had threatened her life," the complaint states. "She also told them that she had obtained protective orders against Sergio H. and that he would kill her as soon as she appeared in Mexico. She repeated that the had three small children and that one was scheduled for surgery.
"None of the defendants asked her any questions or attempted to verify or evaluate her risk of harm in any way.
"None of the defendants explained any of her legal rights to her, such as her right to an attorney, or her right to a hearing before an immigration judge to present the various grounds for relief available to her.
"Laura S. was in fact eligible for many forms of relief from removal, including but not limited to the following: withholding of removal, political asylum, a U-visa, and/or deferral in order to avoid the risk of serious harm, including torture and cruel and degrading treatment."
Rather than give her a hearing before an immigration judge, the agents decided to "immediately remove Laura S. to Mexico," the complaint states.
John Doe drove Laura to the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, her mother says.
"Laura S. wept and begged John Doe not to send her to Mexico all the way to the bridge. Laura S. was forced to cross the bridge into Mexico in the early hours of June 9, 2009. ...
"Within days, Sergio H. learned of Laura S.'s return to Mexico. He promptly accosted and beat her, biting her ear until it bled profusely.
"On June 14, 2009 Sergio H. forcibly abducted Laura S. and took her to a hotel, where he brutally murdered her and left her body in a burning car.
"Maria S., the mother of Laura S., gave her testimony to the Mexican police. Although Sergio H. was imprisoned in Mexico, he later escaped. But for the defendants' wrongful and arbitrary decision to forcibly return Laura S. to Mexico without permitting her to obtain an attorney to present her grounds for relief to an immigration judge, she would not have been battered and murdered by Sergio H.
"The defendants' acts and omissions in this case shock the conscience."
The family seeks damages for civil rights and due process violations.
They are represented by Jennifer Harbury with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in Weslaco.