ILW.COM - the immigration portal Immigration Daily

Immigration Daily: the news source for legal professionals. Free! Join 35000+ readers

Home Page

Advanced search


Immigration Daily

Archives

Processing times

Immigration forms

Discussion board

Resources

Blogs

Twitter feed

Immigrant Nation

Attorney2Attorney

CLE Workshops

Immigration books

Advertise on ILW

VIP Network

EB-5

Chinese Immig. Daily

About ILW.COM

Connect to us

Make us Homepage

Questions/Comments


SUBSCRIBE

Immigration Daily

 

Chinese Immig. Daily



The leading
immigration law
publisher - over
50000 pages of free
information!

Copyright
©1995-
ILW.COM,
American
Immigration LLC.

Immigration Daily: the news source for
legal professionals. Free! Join 35000+ readers
Enter your email address here:



< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

 

July 20, 2000

STATEMENT OF MARIA (LUCY) V. ORTIZ, LCSW SURVIVOR

The Shelter for Abused Women of Collier County (SAWCC)

P. O. Box 10102

Naples, Florida 34101

941-657-5700 (Immokalee Outreach Office)

Immigration and Claims Subcommittee

Hearing on H.R. 3083

Good Morning, Mr. Smith, and members of this Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of battered immigrant women. My special thanks to Shelia Jackson-Lee who is co-sponsoring this bill. My name is Maria de la Luz V. Ortiz. I am employed by The Shelter for Abused Women of Collier County, the only certified domestic violence center in Collier County Florida. I currently work in the Shelter's Immokalee Outreach Office in Immokalee, Florida. Today I come before you wearing many different hats; I am a survivor of domestic violence, a licensed clinical social worker, and a bi-lingual counselor to battered immigrant women. In the past year, our rural Immokalee office has serviced over 1,000 battered women. About 40% of our clients are immigrants.

As a survivor, I know first hand the fears and pain of living in an abusive relationship.. Daily I hear battered women share their personal experiences. I am a 5th generation Mexican-American from San Antonio, Texas. I can identify with the cultural, religious, economic, and emotional barriers that victims of domestic violence experience. Who can I tell? Where can I go for help? Who can I trust? How can I make it on my own? It is such a personal problem. Questions such as these are perpetually swirling around a victims head.

This morning, however, I would like to address the special issues of battered immigrant women. They suffer even more fear, threats, intimidation and isolation than their American sisters. They are the ones who really tug at my heart strings. I want to tell you about Juana. I wish she were here today, but she is still hiding. She left her abusive husband for the fifth time in October, 1998. Juana was one of my first clients. She had been admitted to The Shelter the week before I began working for SAWCC. Juana is a 20 year old Mexican, married female with three children, ages 5, 4 and 3. Her husband, a Lawful Permanent Resident, had been arrested for the second time for Battery, DV. The day before, he had slapped her and pulled her hair. In the morning, he told her he was tried of her and was going out to drink. He said he was going to kill her when he returned and even showed her which knife he was going to use. When he left again, she called the Collier County Sheriff's Office to speak to the victim advocate she had befriended and he was arrested. Juana had never dialed 911; she was too scared. Things would only get worse, she thought. A neighbor called once when her husband threw her outside their home two days before Christmas and locked the door behind her. She went to the neighbor for help. The Spanish-speaking victim advocate that responded was understanding and helpful to Juana. It was to her that Juana turned to about three years ago to begin knocking down the barriers that kept her from accessing services. But, let me go back in time for a more complete picture of Juana.

Juana's mother died two weeks after her birth and her father remarried within a year. Juana always felt like an outsider in the family. When she was 13, her step mother pushed her to seek work in the United States. A recently divorced son, Juan, of a family friend was visiting and needed a caregiver /housekeeper to help him with his three sons, ages 7, 6 and 4. Juana did not know he had been arrested three times for domestic violence and his wife had finally left and divorced him. Juana did not even like him. He was 33 years old. But she hoped for a happier, more peaceful life away from her wicked step-mother, and besides, her father approved of the move, so she came with Juan to Florida.

Juana was happy for about one month. Then she realized that she had been tricked, Juan demanded sex from her also. Away from family, she was at his mercy. He beat and raped her almost daily. Being pregnant did not stop the abuse. She did not know about pre-natal care during her first pregnancy. Their first daughter was born when she was 14. By the time she was 18 years old, she had three children. They were married in the

Fall of 1992. About that same time, Juan found his ex-wife and would bring her to their trailer and have sex with her in their bedroom while Juana took care of the six children in the living room, her three children and his three boys from his first wife. Somehow, Juana had managed to work up a little courage and protested. She knew a neighbor who had left an abusive husband. She was going to leave him, she told him for the first time. He threaten to kill her, cut her up and feed her to the alligators. Without a body, he would say, he could not be convicted of her murder. Fear is the number one reason for staying. She stayed for seven years.

Juana filed an Injunction for Protection while he was in jail. From jail, he called her father in California and he threaten him and her to make her drop the charges against him. He said he had not done anything wrong. She was just making up stories because she probably had a boy friend and wanted him out of the picture. At he hearing, he brought his parents and three children to support him, as he claimed he was a victim. He controlled everything they had. From jail, he had the water, lights, cable, and telephone disconnected all on the same day. Juana came to the office in tears. She did not have any money for the connection fees. We scrambled to contacted community agencies for deposits to turn on the electricity and water within twenty four hours. Juana said her husband received three different bank statements but she does not have any idea how much money he makes or has.

Juana was referred to Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center to file a Self-Petition. She has Employment Authorization now and is working to support her three children. He will stop at nothing to locate her. Living and working in a rural community has advantages and disadvantages. Twice he has come to our office and my home to ask for her address. He said that he had received a letter from her father and needed to send it to her immediately. We neither confirm or deny and contact with our clients. She is afraid of filing for child support because he could locate her. During his two week vacation time last year, he visited her sister in Georgia to obtain Juana's current address. After the first of several visits, Juana's sister begged her to return to Juan. "He cried all night for you. He sounds so sad. You should go back to him, Juana. He is your husband," her sister told her. Since Juana dare not even tell her own sister her true address, he was unsuccessful and returned to Florida. Twice she has moved because she has seen neighbors or his friends in town.

He constantly reminded her that he had legal status and she did not. She did not have any rights in this country. He would see to it that she never saw her children again, if she even thought about leaving him. No one would want her. He really made her feel extremely self-conscience; she was terrified of him. He did not need any weapons to control her, one look would do it. When they were out in public, she had to keep her head and eyes down, least some male see her. He would not allow her to learn English or to work. He told her that if she left the children with someone the Department of Children and Families would take them from her because she could not take care of them. For a very long time she believed him and was terrified at the thought of losing her children.

Her story is one of thousands who seek protection from this Congress today. Having legal status is paramount for battered immigrant women. It is threshold to eliminating the barriers that keep her in fear and in the shadows. Bill H.R. 3083 provides for the various pots of money that is available through VAWA to all service providers will help to eliminate the barriers for women like Juana. Passage of this bill will ensure that women like Juana have more excess to more advocates like me.

I have enclosed a drawing by Juana which best expresses her situation as a battered immigrant woman.

Translation:

I am sick

I am scared

I am alone

My heart is crying, it is alone,

it is dead

I feel that I am alone

in the world

in the town

in the country

July 20, 2000

STATEMENT OF MARIA (LUCY) V. ORTIZ, LCSW SURVIVOR

The Shelter for Abused Women of Collier County (SAWCC)

P. O. Box 10102, Naples, Florida 34101

941-657-5700 (Immokalee Outreach Office)

Immigration and Claims Subcommittee, Hearing on H.R. 3083

Good Morning, Mr. Smith, and members of this Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of battered immigrant women. My special thanks to Shelia Jackson-Lee who is co-sponsoring this bill. My name is Maria de la Luz V. Ortiz. I am employed by The Shelter for Abused Women of Collier County.I currently work in the Shelter's Immokalee Outreach Office in Immokalee, Florida. Today I come before you wearing many different hats; I am a survivor of domestic violence, a licensed clinical social worker, and a bilingual counselor to battered immigrant women. As a survivor, I know first hand the fears and pain of living in an abusive relationship..

I am a 5th generation Mexican-American from San Antonio, Texas. I can identify with the cultural, religious, economic, and emotional barriers that victims of domestic violence experience. I would like to address the special issues of battered immigrant women with Juana's story.

Juana's mother died two weeks after her birth and her father remarried within a year. Juana always felt like an outsider in the family. When she was 13, her step mother pushed her to seek work in the United States. That is how she met and later married Juan. She was happy for about a month. Juan demanded sex from her also. Away from her family, she was at his mercy. He beat and raped her almost daily. Being pregnant did not stop the abuse. By the time she was 18, she had three children. Once when she said she was leaving, the threaten to kill her, cut her up and feed her to the alligators. Without a body, he said, he could not be convicted of her murder. She stayed for seven years. She was able to access shelter services first though a victim advocate with law enforcement. Later she filed a VAWA petition.

Her story is one of thousands who seek protection from this Congress today. Having legal status is paramount for battered immigrant women. It is threshold to eliminating the barriers that keep her in fear and in the shadows. Bill H.R. 3083 provides for the various pots of money that is available through VAWA to all service providers will help to eliminate the barriers for women like Juana. Passage of this bill will ensure that women like Juana have more excess to more advocates like me.

 



Immigration Daily: the news source for
legal professionals. Free! Join 35000+ readers
Enter your email address here: