HALT Needs to be Stopped in its TracksConnecticut Post
MariAn Gail Brown
October 04, 2011
The first time Shengyl Rasim left home with her young son and baby daughter she stayed away for six weeks from the man who beat her. The second time Rasim fled, she went back to the battered women's shelter with her kids.
Each time she was determined to get away from her husband, Selami Ozdemir, a man about a generation older. She had met Ozdemir in Turkey when she was a teenager—not old enough to drive a car and barely old enough to date. Both times, Rasim lost her fragile resolve to leave him. She didn't have a dime to her name. She had no job. No skills. Eight years after arriving in this country her ability to speak and understand English were nil.
Even with the benefit of a Turkish translator who came to the shelter, it took a while for Rasim to tell anyone about the beatings, the bruises and the violence her husband inflicted on her.
She had a green card, which showed she was a documented resident in this country from Bulgaria. That means she had a lawful right to be in the United States. That ought to have given Rasim some comfort. But it didn't.
"She had a green card to be in this country, but she didn't know that. She was unaware she had it," State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz says. "I know that because we wanted to help her get public housing. And the hiccup in that was her residency status. She was operating on the belief that she wasn't here legally."
This is the assumption that countless women from other countries operate under. It's one of the ways abusers keep their prey in line.
Days after she returned home in January 2010, Rasim was shot to death by her husband, who then turned the gun on himself, police said.
Terena Bell, chief executive officer of In Every Language, knows this story all too well.
"Abuse is not just about physical force, it's about power and control. And one of the ways an abuser will keep a victim in line is by telling them they're not here lawfully when they are," Bell says. "They'll threaten to have them deported if they don't do as they are told."
Many of the translators employed by Kentucky-based In Every Language, who collectively speak 175 languages, tell Bell that other times abusers will persuade their victims they are lawful residents, claiming they've filled out the paperwork for them or hiding the fact that their applications weren't processed.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's a time when victims' rights advocates hope to enlighten communities about the danger signs of abuse and how to truly help victims rather than pay mere lip service to their plight. Candles are lit for those who've perished or been beaten by someone close to them. In the minute that it takes the average reader to digest this paragraph, close to three women will have become victims of domestic abuse.
That amounts to 3,562 women every day. That's 1.3 million victims per year, and 433,333 people who go to their graves early at the hands of their abusers. That figure far outpaces the total 5,491 American casualties of the war on terror many times over..
These statistics ought to make us mad. And a bill, known as HALT, pending in Congress, should make our collective blood boil. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, "Hinder the Administration Legalization Temptation Act," would strip authorities of almost all of their discretionary authority and force them to deport victims of domestic violence who reach out for help.
The bill is called HALT, but it should be dubbed shut your pie hole. What it tells victims of domestic violence, 85 percent of whom are women, is that they ought to put up and shut up or ship out to wherever they came from. Here's the door, lady. You're not entitled to the same civil rights protection we give American citizens. That's insane. Inhumane. And completely contradictory to public policy.
"Elimination of basic human rights and laws that protect vulnerable women from incidents of domestic violence anywhere at any time are a travesty," says Joel Faxon, an attorney representing Rasim's estate. "This legislation should be scuttled. It's repulsive."
We purport to be a law-abiding nation. It makes no sense to allow one group to trample over the basic liberty of another segment of our population.