On May 4, Telma Bras, 43, a Portuguese immigrant, was murdered in her home in Stoughton, with both her children present. Her husband, Ilton Rodrigues, was taken into custody with self-inflicted knife wounds and charged with murder.
The Stoughton Police and the Norfolk County District Attorney are still investigating, and we trust them to ensure justice for the family. We will not stand by, however, as others try to use this tragedy to sow division and harm immigrants.
It took just days for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make a statement – promptly shared by numerous media outlets – that Rodrigues, born in Brazil, was undocumented. “ICE will seek his removal pending the outcome of the criminal charges,” said ICE spokesman John Mohan.
What ICE did not say is that a domestic violence conviction – especially for murder – would be grounds for deportation even if Rodrigues had a green card. Or that he faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted. So unless ICE plans to try to deport him before he serves his sentence, leaving a murder unpunished, it has no role to play here.
ICE also omitted a more crucial detail: Telma Bras, too, was undocumented. It is a sad reality that thousands of hard-working immigrants who desperately want a green card have no path to obtaining one. So they keep a low profile and fend for themselves as best they can.
Immigrants like Bras are immensely vulnerable to domestic violence. We see it every day. They endure verbal abuse, physical abuse, and sometimes mortal threats to themselves and their loved ones. Like abuse victims who are U.S. citizens, they weigh the danger of staying silent against the risk of reprisal. But they also know calling the police will likely bring ICE into the picture.
And what if their abuser files a complaint against them? They might be on a plane to a far-away country before their case is even adjudicated, and their children will be motherless.
ICE involvement in these cases is toxic. Sometimes even the threat of it is deadly. And yet in the Trump era, ICE not only interferes in criminal cases – it also puts agents in family courts, intimidating immigrant women who need to request a protective order.
We don’t expect ICE to change, but local and state leaders can make a difference. Dozens of communities across Massachusetts have adopted policies to reassure immigrant residents that they can call 911 and speak to police without fear of being turned over to ICE.
At the state level, it’s time to pass the Safe Communities Act, so basic standards like police not asking about immigration status are the norm across the state. Wherever they live, we need to send a strong message to abuse victims that it’s always safe to ask for help.
The proposed law would ensure that people are read their legal rights before ICE tries to interview them, a matter of due process. And it would end so-called “287(g)” contracts to deputize sheriffs and correctional officers as ICE agents, which now make it easier to pluck immigrants out of jail and deport them before their cases are adjudicated.
Sometimes tragedies help us see issues in a new way, and take steps to ensure a better future. We can’t save Telma Bras, but by choosing community over hate and fear, we can help others like her.
|Lidia Souza, left, is co-founder and director of the New England Community Center in Stoughton. Heloisa Maria Galvão is co-founder and executive director of the Brazilian Women’s Group., left, is co-founder and director of the New England Community Center in Stoughton. Heloisa Maria Galvão is co-founder and executive director of the Brazilian Women’s Group.|
Originally posted at OJornal.com click on link to read.