A substitute judge hearing the case of an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband threatened to turn her over to immigration officials if she didn't leave his courtroom.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink told Aurora Gonzalez during last week's hearing that he was going to count to 20 and that if she was still in his courtroom when he finished, he would have her arrested and deported to Mexico.
In an interview Wednesday, Fink said that the woman had admitted in court that she was in the country illegally and that he didn't want her to get in trouble with immigration officials.
"We have a federal law that says that this status is not allowed," Fink said. "You can't just ignore it. What I really wanted was to not give this woman any problems."
He said he thought the couple "obviously wanted to get back together" and that he was trying to avoid granting a restraining order that would keep them apart for at least a year. He said he also thought the court order might lead to Gonzalez's deportation, because her husband would not be able to continue helping her get legal residency.
Gonzalez could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Allan Parachini, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, said the July 14 incident was under review. "We will take appropriate action after a full investigation of the circumstances," he said, adding that Gonzalez was welcome to refile for a restraining order.
In her initial court petition, Gonzalez alleged that Francisco Salgado, 51, her husband of six years, was "verbally and emotionally abusive" to her and their two young boys. Gonzalez, who moved into a domestic violence shelter last month, accused Salgado of referring to her with a derogatory term and threatening to call immigration authorities.
In last Friday's hearing in Pomona, Fink asked Gonzalez if she was in fact an illegal immigrant.
"I'm illegal," she said.
"I hate the immigration laws that we have," the judge responded, according to the court transcript, "but I think the bailiff could take you to the immigration services and send you to Mexico. Is that what you guys want?"
Fink then asked Salgado if he wanted his wife deported. Salgado replied he was helping his wife get her legal papers, according to the transcript.
"But she's an illegal alien, right?" Fink said. "She has no right to be here at this point, correct?
"Yes," Salgado said.
At that point, Fink warned Gonzalez to either leave his courtroom or risk arrest.
"I'm going to count to 20, and if you people have left this courtroom and disappeared, she isn't going to Mexico forthwith," Fink said, according to the court transcript. "One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico."
After Gonzalez left the courtroom, Fink asked Salgado if he wanted to stay, and he said yes.
Fink then dismissed the case: "Well, she brought the proceedings, and if she's not here to go forward, I guess all of the requests are denied."
On Wednesday, Fink, who has been a family law attorney for 35 years, insisted he was seeking what he thought was an agreeable solution for both parties.
"What I saw was nothing more than some yelling and screaming between a husband and wife," he said.
"I also saw that they really didn't want to not be together anymore."
If he had issued the restraining order, Fink said, "we'd wind up with exactly the opposite of what these people wanted."
"The cure could be far worse than the illness," he said.