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Pre-2008 Posts

Woman Immigrant Accused of Selling Copied CDs Held in Arkansas Cell Four Days Without Food, Water, Toilet

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Adriana Flores-Torres, 38,  a Mexican woman living in Arkansas who has been in the United States for 19 years “illegally” had been accused of selling copied (“pirated”)  CDs of Latin music after police raided a flea market in her community.   When she and the other four defendants appeared in court to be arraigned, three pled guilty, were presumably fined, and went home.  Charges were dismissed for one of the defendants.  But Flores-Torres pled “not guilty” because, she said, she wasn’t guilty.   Her bail was revoked because she is an “illegal immigrant”  and she was taken to a  holding cell near the courtroom.   It was Friday.  The bailiff was supposed to contact corrections officers to escort Flores-Torres from the courthouse to the jail where she would be held pending trial, but he forgot.  He’d been on the job only two months.  He didn’t realize his mistake until he returned to work on Monday, opened the door of the tiny holding cell,  9-1/2 by 10-1/2 feet in size, and found Flores-Torres where she had been for the past four days without food, water, or a toilet.  She had screamed and pounded on the steel doors of the cell, but everyone had gone home for the weekend and nobody heard her.   When her thirst became intolerable, she drank her urine.  She put a shoe under head to sleep. 

Her family thought she had been jailed, and unjust though the jailing may have been, they believed her to be at least safe.  The woman does not speak English, and her 14-year-old daughter interpreted for her in interviews she has given to the press.  She was taken to the hospital after her ordeal, treated and released, and is resting at home.

The bailiff has been suspended for 30 days without pay.    There are plans to install a light outside the cell which will be turned on when the cell is occupied. 

Federal immigration officials, meanwhile, have put out a detainer order on Flores-Torres. 

First of all, do the cops in Springville,  Arkansas have anything better to do with their time than raid flea markets which are probably run and patronized by immigrants?  I wonder how often they make these “sweeps” of flea markets in the full knowledge that if they can charge people there with something — anything — immigration officials will step in and finish the job they started and intended by issuing detainers and shipping people out of the country if they are here “illegally”.  Never mind that they are poor, never mind that they speak little or no English and have difficulty explaining their situation, and never mind that they are torn from their families, spend time in jail when they are no threat to anyone anywhere.  Who cares?  They should’ve thought of that, I guess the sentiment is, before they came to this country, looking for a better  life a couple, few decades ago.

Then, I wonder why one of the defendants had his or her charges dismissed.  My guess is, this defendant spoke better English and could explain why he or she was not guilty, and  the judge agreed and sent that person home.  I wonder whether Flores-Torres could only communicate that she wasn’t guilty but could not adequately explain why.  One would expect that in this part of the nation, interpreters would be on hand.  One would expect that in the courtroom, someone was present who could interpret for Flores-Torres.  Evidently no one stepped up because no one cared.

Media attention to the case has focused, absurdly, in my opinion, on the bailiff’s actions.  I wouldn’t.  He was new on the job and his boss says he is absolutely broken over this.  Instead of demanding that the bailiff be fired, as though that is going to solve any important problem, or address any issue of significance in this situation,  how about focusing on (1)  police sweeps of immigrant persons’  flea markets (I have never heard, even one time, of any such “sweep” in any of the flea markets in the Pacific Northwest); (2) revoking bail and jailing persons who cannot speak English well without attempting to find someone to interpret what they have to say; (3)  jailing persons accused of such things as the “crime” of selling copied CDs; (4) police harassment of immigrants which is actually intended to bring them across the radar of immigration officials; (5) jailing persons accused of this kind of “crime” as though they are some threat to society or as though they might flee, when they have families, homes and have lived in an areea for decades.    How many mothers, sisters, wives have been deported because police somewhere decided to accuse them, ticket them, harass them, knowing they would be turning whole families’ lives upside down, and not only didn’t they care, they thought what they were doing was the right thing and all in a day’s work, because by all means, the country must be purged of these “illegals” who, you know, do all the work nobody else is willing to do, for less money than most people would consider taking.

I hope Flores-Torres sues the pants off the government agencies responsible for what happened to her and wins big.  I hope she gets some relief, however momentary, of a life in which she must help to support her family by selling what she can find to sell in flea markets.  I hope the charges against her are dropped, which it appears is going to be the case.  The tragedy and outrage is that all any of this will mean is, Flores-Torres will be compensated for a mistake that could have cost her her life.   None of it will change or even touch the horrific injustices immigrants of color face every day at the hands of police, judges, jailers, immigration officials, and a nation that by and large is indifferent to their plight.

Thanks to Lauren Asrael to alerting me to this woman’s story.

Link

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Woman Immigrant Accused of Selling Copied CDs Held in Arkansas Cell Four Days Without Food, Water, Toilet

  1. Yet again a ‘minion’ has been scapegoated but never management who of course are the ones responsible for ensuring this man carries out his duties correctly. Here in the UK immigration is a huge issue with of course rabidly right-wing media demonising ‘asylyum seekers.’ I too hope Ms. Flores-Torres sues the real culprits who are the police and bosses of the baliff. Ms. Flores-Torres could have died but do they care – no of course not because she is an illegal immigrant!!

    Posted by jennifer drew | March 15, 2008, 10:50 pm
  2. This is becoming more common everywhere due to the RIAA’s gnashing of teeth and multipronged attack on digital music:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2007/06/10_arrested_in_piracy_raid_at.html

    I’m for sweeps of flea markets, immigrant-patronized or no. Even with the occasional police-sweeps, vendors at the one I’m most familiar with in GA sell many illegal things: cocks and dogs for fighting; guns and other weapons; illegal-grade fireworks. Possibly other things too, but those are the ones I’ve seen with my own eyes. To me, the screwiest part is that cops would see pirated music and immigration as the most proper use of their authority at a flea market. But I think they’re just low-hanging fruit, meant to make cops feel like they’re accomplishing something and convince the community of same.

    Lots of local cops seem to view it as their duty – which it isn’t – to assess the immigration status of people they pick up for various misdemeanors. So it’s even more straightforward than hoping their actions will bring the immigrant to the attention of immigration authorities, but that they will hold someone until the INS says whether they want to deport or not. That may be why she was re-jailed while the others were let go (if they were here legally or had more convincing paperwork).

    What a horrible ordeal for this woman.

    Posted by funnie | March 16, 2008, 2:08 am
  3. Thank you, Heart, for this excellent piece.

    Posted by Lauren | March 16, 2008, 9:45 pm
  4. Heart, thanks for highlighting this. The criminalization of counterfeiting has gender and class ramifications that are under recognized. The rights of copyright holders and trademark holders can be “vindicated” with confiscations and impoundment, and fines. This kind of thing is absurd.

    Posted by Ann Bartow | March 18, 2008, 4:47 pm
  5. God it just makes me sick. Thanks for drawing attention to it though.

    Posted by milly | March 18, 2008, 6:04 pm
  6. Horrible. And here’s another piece of news, for the male terrorism series…
    http://profbw.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/why-not-target-the-differently-abled-women/

    Posted by profacero | March 22, 2008, 10:19 pm

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