Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 3

Visas Out of Hell: Women Need to Know They Exist

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Graciela Beines endured two years of abuse by her ex-boyfriend out of fear of deportation. Now she wants others to know about the U visa, which permits immigrant victims of crimes to escape the violence and stay in the U.S.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--Graciela Beines received a letter not long ago, which her lawyer says indicates she'll soon have her permanent residency status.

"I cried for happiness; I've suffered so much," said Beines, who left her native Argentina 10 years ago and arrived in New York undocumented, unmarried, without children and barely speaking English.

Shortly after her arrival, Beines, 50, became the subject of brutal domestic violence that lasted for two years.

Many undocumented women who suffer similarly don't know they have options and fail to report domestic violence because of fear of deportation, said Evelyn García of the Violence Intervention Program, a New York City-based Latina organization that promotes nonviolent partner relationships and offers services for victims of domestic violence.

Beines lived in one of the group's shelters for nine months.

"He always hit me and then said, 'If you call the police I'll report you to immigration,'" Beines said in Spanish.

Tracy Bing, a lawyer who works with domestic violence cases at Manhattan Legal Services, says that's a common problem. "A lot of times they'll be afraid to get help because they fear if I go to the police, they're going to tell immigration. That's a big deal," she said.

Beines talks about her relationship with bitter wit these days. "In New York I met a man who gave me the sky, the stars and the moon. And the stars, yes I saw them, but because of the blows he gave me."

She was wearing a white wool sweater, jeans and had her hair in a ponytail on a recent evening.

There was no makeup on her pale skin, no eyeliner around her blue eyes. That's her usual look in recent years, she said. But it wasn't what Beines used to wear before she experienced domestic violence.

"The violence is not only the blow, the violence is also, 'Don't wear that, who are you talking with?' 'You should be able to buy all the groceries for this week with $20.' 'I don't want you to leave the house alone,'" Beines said. She still doesn't wear makeup regularly because, she says, she's too scared to look her best and start attracting men again.

Forgiveness Out of Fear

Beines stayed in hospitals three times and reported her boyfriend to the police on several occasions during the two years they were together. But she always forgave him because of fear, she said.

She also quit two jobs as a telemarketer because she was ashamed of the way her blackened, battered face looked. That created financial dependency on her abuser.

Beines ran away from what she calls hell after an especially horrific night on Feb. 28, 2002, when she feared for her life.

"That day I said, 'Stop.' The fight started, the blows came, he threw me to the bed, put a pillow over my face and wanted to put an electric drill on my face to kill me," Beines said calmly.

Their apartment had no curtains, so a neighbor saw what was happening and called the police.

She managed to get away from him and started running down the stairs. Within seconds the police were there, Beines recalled, and they arrested him.

Both of them spent that night in jail. Beines sat with police in the office area to complete a police report, while her assailant was put in a cell with other incarcerated men.

"I remember that night I went to the bathroom at some point and went by the guardroom where he was," Beines said. He called her by the pet name he used for her. "He screamed at me, 'Muqui, muqui, I know you're going to forgive me like you always do.'" Muqui is an abbreviation of the word doll in Spanish.

But she didn't.

The next day she went back to the apartment and cleaned the mess.

The same policewoman who had arrested her boyfriend came back the next morning and took her to the court in the Bronx.

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Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration


Series Overview

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 12

Few Care for the Undocumented With Breast Cancer

Part: 11

Nebraska Prenatal Bill Stirs Fight Over Immigration

Part: 10

Visas Out of Hell: Women Need to Know They Exist

Part: 9

Deportation of Mothers in Iowa Tests Local Charity

Part: 8

Women's ESL Dominance Tied to Job Demands

Part: 7

For Street Vendor, Another Holiday in Shadows

Part: 6

Arrested Iowa Meat Packers Live in Legal Limbo

Part: 5

Battered Immigrants in Arizona Find Few Havens

Part: 4

Recession Shrinks Safety Net for Immigrant Women

Part: 3

Immigrant Survivors of Abuse Seek Freedom

Part: 2

U Visas Speed Up for Immigrants Who Flee Abuse

Part: 1

U Visa Recipients Look for Better Enforcement