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Stories of Immigration and Deportation – Leticia

Leticia Reta is an undocumented immigrant living in Little Rock. She says for many years she was married to a man who beat her, but was afraid to leave because he threatened to have her deported. PHOTO courtesy of Reta.
Leticia Reta is an undocumented immigrant living in Little Rock. She says for many years she was married to a man who beat her, but was afraid to leave because he threatened to have her deported. PHOTO courtesy of Reta.
August 26, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - There are a lot of immigrant women in the United States who are abused, but afraid to say anything because they could be deported. Leticia Reta of Little Rock used to be one of those women, but she's not any more.

Reta came to the U.S. two decades ago, and for years was married to a man who beat her. She says he threatened to have her deported and her children put in foster care. Tired of being abused and of feeling frightened all the time, Leticia finally got divorced, and now she's speaking out, no longer willing to live in the shadows and not be heard.

"There is so many woman. They're in my same situation, and they're afraid to speak," she stated. "I know probably is going to have consequences. But I'm ready to deal with the consequences."

Reta said it took two years to get her divorce. She said she started the process at the urging of an employer, a women whose house she was cleaning, who saw her injuries and convinced her to go to court for a protective order.

"I was working and she said 'Leticia, what happened to your hands?' And I said 'nothing, I just fell.' She saw my bruises in parts of the body, and she was so terrified," Reta recounted.

The Pew Center estimates there are 55,000 undocumented immigrants in Arkansas. Reta for one said she feels devoted to her adopted homeland. She said sometimes she wants to cry when she hears the national anthem at her children's school events. She wants her kids to go to college, and she wants to start her own business, but she's afraid that her immigration status might get in the way.

"I've been cleaning houses for the last 12 years, and I want to have a company, I want to be registered," she said. "Even if I was not born here, I feel American. I feel like part of this big country with big dreams."

Leticia Reta said she is now vulnerable to deportation because she has no documents and no way to apply for them under current law. Congress is considering immigration reform, but including a path to citizenship faces considerable opposition.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR