The PJ Tatler

That poor woman! Oh, wait a minute

Stories like this have become almost a trademark at the Los Angeles Times. In Monday’s edition, they report on the travails endured by Norma, who asked that the Times not reveal her last name “because she fears that speaking out may jeopardize her case.” (That fear apparently does not extend to the publication of her photograph, which prominently accompanies the story.)

Norma, the Times mournfully informs us, is facing deportation after being arrested in San Francisco for domestic violence. She was not charged in the case, but she was nonetheless referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Says the Times:

More than once, Norma recalls, she yearned to dial 911 when her partner hit her. But the undocumented mother of a U.S.-born toddler was too fearful of police and too broken of spirit to do so.

In October, she finally worked up the courage to call police — and paid a steep price.

Officers who responded found her sobbing, with a swollen lower lip. But a red mark on her alleged abuser’s cheek prompted police to book them both into the San Francisco County Jail while investigators sorted out the details.

With that, Norma was swept into the wide net of Secure Communities, a federal program launched in 2008 with the stated goal of identifying and deporting more illegal immigrants “convicted of serious crimes.”

But Norma was never convicted of a crime. She was not charged in the abuse case, though the jail honored a request to turn her over to immigration authorities for possible deportation.

How awful, the reader is all but commanded to say. The poor dear!

But wait. One must read through more than half of the 1,500-word story before coming across this little tidbit, which some might consider relevant: “Norma . . . had left the country voluntarily after an immigration arrest in 2002 but returned the same year, ICE officials said.”

With this story and so many others like it, we are being asked to endorse the proposition that illegal immigrants should be unburdened by the fear of deportation unless they are convicted of a serious crime. I’m not unsympathetic to Norma, but we are either a nation of laws or we are not. She should have remained in her native country in 2002, and she should be sent back there today.