The Not So Fuzzy Case of Laura Woolen



Just when you think reporting on immigration can’t get any worse, it does. The Mercury News – which covers the San Francisco Bay area – recently published an article decrying the allegedly sad situation faced by Laura Woolen. Ms. Woolen is a Mexican national who was convicted on two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor. She now faces deportation to her native country.

Articles trying to make martyrs out of foreign criminals have become common fare lately. However, when it portrays Ms. Woolen as the victim of cruel and callous immigration policies, The Mercury is really pushing it. What’s worse, The Mercury appears to be taking its cues from the California Court of Appeals.

In 1996, Woolen was working as a nanny in Orinda, California. She was accused of molesting an eight-year-old girl for whom she was caring. Facing up to ten years in prison if convicted, Woolen agreed to enter into a plea agreement in exchange for a sentence of 120 days house arrest.

According to The Mercury News, Woolen was a lawful permanent resident at the time of her conviction. Nevertheless, following her plea deal, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) failed to take her into custody. (INS was the forerunner to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

Woolen then proceeded to leave and re-enter the United States, despite remaining subject to arrest and deportation/exclusion. In 2013, she was finally arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, while attempting to re-enter the United States, and placed in deportation proceedings.

Faced with certain expulsion, Woolen filed a late appeal of her conviction. The California Court of Appeal affirmed that conviction. However, it did so in atypically apologetic language, indicating that it was “not unsympathetic” to Woolen’s plight and expressing “reluctance” about its decision.

When commenting on this matter, neither The Mercury nor the Appellate Court bothered even considering the proposition – which the trial court found persuasive – that Woolen molested a child and received her just desserts at the hand of the criminal justice system. They immediately jumped to the conclusion that because Woolen was a migrant working as a nanny, there’s no way she was treated fairly.

Also, curiously absent from both the Mercury’s coverage of this case, and the Court of Appeal’s review of it, is any input from the victim of Woolen’s crime or the child’s family. Similarly, there is no commentary from prosecutors – who obviously uncovered evidence sufficient to secure a conviction against Woolen.

So, what’s really going on here? Both the commentary on this matter by The Mercury News and the consideration of it by the California Court of Appeals are part of a disturbing trend in our national immigration debate. Open-borders advocates have taken it upon themselves to portray immigrants as smarter, more capable and harder working than native-born U.S. citizens. But whenever a migrant proves to be dishonest or criminal, they immediately revert to cartoonish portrayals of all immigrants as victims of “racism,” woefully bereft of any responsibility for their own fate.

That approach is as distasteful as it is hypocritical. And it doesn’t stand up to any factual analysis of this matter. The reality is that Laura Woolen received more than due process at every stage of her alleged saga of woe. And she made conscious choices about how to proceed. In the end, Ms. Woolen isn’t a victim. She’s simply one more person in the American justice system who doesn’t wish to come face-to-face with the consequences of their choices.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cases like Ms. Woolen’s, neither the mainstream media, nor the activist courts in states like California, can see the forest for the trees.

About Author

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Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

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