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Contested new law could help undocumented victims of domestic violence

Owen Hidalgo-Calderon was barely more than a year old when he and his mother Selena Hidalgo-Calderon were murdered by her partner in May, 2018.
Owen Hidalgo-Calderon was barely more than a year old when he and his mother Selena Hidalgo-Calderon were murdered by her partner in May, 2018.

Last Thursday, in Wayne County, Everardo Donoteo-Reyes was sentenced to 20 years in state prison and five years probation for the murder of his girlfriend Selena Hidalogo-Calderon and her infant son, Owen. Both Calderon and Reyes were undocumented immigrants. While their families and communy continue to grieve, soon a contested new law could help undocumented domestic violence victims get to safety.

Lauren Deutsch is with the Worker Justice Center of New York, which provides services for undocumented people. She says that the question of whether someone, including law enforcement, could have intervened to prevent the double homicide is only hindsight.

"I think it’s always easy in retrospect to try to point a finger what I will say is that a lot of undocumented women live with domestic violence because they feel afraid to come forward," Deutsch says.
Afraid, because if they reach out to law enforcement, there is a threat of deportation or removal from the U.S. Rural farmworkers who are undocumented are often isolated.
"One of the particular tragedies of the situation of undocumented farmworker victims living with domestic violence is that to get to safety often you need a car," Deutsch says.
Deutsch says she’s hopeful that a sense of safety will improve when the Green Light Law is enacted next month. That legislation reinstates permissions for undocumented immigrants to receive a driver’s license. 
But until the Greenlight law takes effect on December 16th, any undocumented person found driving a car is caught committing a crime - Driving without a license. And that could lead to deportation proceedings if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers see those records from local law enforcement. 
"Suvivors of domestic violence in general will have that particular layer removed. That they can register a car that they can drive a car without fear. That they can pick up a child at school if they need to get away with their child," she says.
Selena Hidalogo-Calderon and her 14-month-old son Owen went missing in mid-May of last year. Calderon was 18 at the time. 
Donoteo-Reyes, who fraudulently assumed the name Alberto Gutierrez on a counterfeit social security card, was arrested on May 24th last year. In September of this year, Reyes plead guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter. He is expected to be deported upon completion of his sentence.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.