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Creating an Orphan
February 3, 2014 permalink
Mexican Ivonne Hernández Segura entered Canada illegally, married a Canadian and gave birth. When an argument developed between the parents, she fled the home and he reported her to immigration. Now she is to be deported to Mexico leaving her Canadian son a half-orphan.
Deporting Mexican mother discourages abused women from seeking help, activists say
Ivonne Hernandez loses custody of child after leaving Montreal husband she says was hitting her
MONTREAL — Quebec women’s groups and refugee advocates fear the imminent deportation to Mexico of a mother without her Canadian-born baby is not only cruel; it sends the wrong message to other immigrant women stuck in abusive relationships.
Ivonne Hernandez, now 41, came to Montreal in July 2009, fleeing a violent relationship with a police officer in her hometown of Mexico City. She applied for refugee status but was denied in October 2011. But like many refugees who fear for their lives in their home country, she continued to live here without status. She met and married a Montreal man, a construction worker. In December 2012, she gave birth to a son.
“Near the end of my pregnancy, he started to get mean,” Hernandez told The Gazette on Friday. “He was complaining all the time about money ... He was always insulting me, laughing at me because of my accent.”
She said the abusive treatment gradually worsened and by last fall, she knew she had to leave after several instances where he shoved her and hit her, once when she had the baby in her arms. She said he also threatened many times to have her deported and keep the baby.
After several months of preparation and consulting with shelter workers, Hernandez took the baby and went to a shelter on Dec. 11.
“I left him a note that said, ‘I still love you but I’m leaving because I can’t live with violence. Don’t worry, you will see the baby soon.’ ”
But the husband reported Hernandez to police, saying she had kidnapped the child. On the child’s first birthday, Dec. 20, Hernandez was summoned to court in St-Jêrôme for a custody hearing.
Hernandez did not have time to get a family lawyer for that hearing. She said her husband’s lawyer stressed that she could be deported at any time, and the judge did not seem to want to hear her complaints that the husband was abusive. Over the holidays, the judge awarded temporary joint custody, but when the couple returned to court on Jan. 10, he awarded temporary sole custody to the father.
“The judge said, ‘This baby will have to go to DPJ (Youth Protection Services) or to the father because the mother can be deported any day, we don’t know when,’ ” Hernandez recounted.
The judge granted the mother, who had been the main caregiver to the baby for his first 13 months, two visits with the child each week, for a total of eight hours per week.
Another family court hearing is scheduled for March 8, but by that time Hernandez may well be deported.
On Jan. 22, Hernandez was arrested in what her supporters describe as a public ambush as she waited at the Berri-UQAM métro station to receive her son from his father for her second scheduled visit.
Hernandez sobbed as she described the scene. The father showed up with several family members and the baby, but he did not approach her.
“Then I heard behind me someone saying, ‘we are immigration and you are illegal’ and they were taking me away. I was just yelling, ‘my baby, my baby, Don’t take me away from my baby.’ He was there. He had them do that in front of my baby,” Hernandez said.
She was released from detention quickly, but has been ordered deported as of Feb. 7. She continues to live at a Montreal-area woman’s shelter, and she fears her son is not being well cared for.
“Please, I just want my baby back. I don’t care if they send me anywhere. I will defend my baby with my heart and soul,” Hernandez said, although she added she is still afraid to return to Mexico.
Several women’s groups and refugee advocacy organizations have taken up Hernandez’s cause.
Dr. Marie-Michelle Bellon volunteers with Médecins du Monde, a group that organizes free health care for those in need. She treated Hernandez during her difficult pregnancy, and was horrified to learn Hernandez had lost custody of her baby and may be deported on Feb. 7 without her child.
“For those of us who work with women in these situations, it puts us in a real dilemma. Will I tell them to get out and go to a shelter, or to stick with a brutal husband?” Bellon asked.
Manon Monastesse, director of a network of women’s shelters, said Canada is a signatory to several international conventions that state that women have a right to live in safety, regardless of their immigration status.
“Victims of violence have the right to be protected in Quebec. ... When they seek help, we don’t re-victimize them by taking away their children and having them deported,” Monastesse said.
“Essentially, a mother has had her child removed from her custody, perhaps permanently, due to her immigration status,” said Mary Foster of Solidarity Across Borders. “Every aspect of this case is disgusting and shocking.”
Source: Montreal Gazette