The Houston office of the FBI has placed Jacqueline LeBaron on their list of most wanted fugitives
(not to be confused with the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list). LeBaron is the daughter of deceased polygamist sect leader Ervil LeBaron, who died in prison and apparently left a hit list for his children and other followers to act on. What could this possibly have to do with me? Well, several years ago, when I was in my law school immigration clinic, I represented another one of Ervil LeBaron's daughters--he had something like 54 children from around 20 wives. Like many of LeBaron's children, she had been born at one of his Mexican compounds to one of his many Mexican wives. She had since come to the United States to be nearer to some of her siblings, and had married a U.S. citizen. He turned out to be a son-of-a-bitch who beat her and threatened both her and their infant son. So, she left him. The problem for her was that, even though her father was a U.S. citizen, she was not. You may be surprised to learn that being born to a U.S. citizen outside the United States does not automatically confer U.S. citizenship. If the U.S. citizen parent is your father, and your father is not married to your mother, then your father must "claim paternity" of you in some sort of legally recognized way before you turn 18, or else you lose your claim on U.S. citizenship forever. Since Ervil could not be legally married to my client's mother as he was already legally married to another woman, my client was pretty much screwed. After marrying her dirtbag husband, he had started the application process to get her residency and citizenship through him, but then, she had to leave him due to his abuse. The federal Violence Against Women Act provided a way for my client to continue to seek legal status in the United States by virtue of her marriage to a U.S. citizen, even though she was no longer with him due to his physical abuse. It was, indeed, a fascinating case. I remember reading the newspaper articles about her family, and reading a letter from an FBI agent supporting her application to the INS, talking about her good moral character, particularly in relation to her assistance in the investigation of the very murders that Jacqueline LeBaron and others were involved in. I remember her describing in her affidavit what life was like on the Mexican compound she spent a lot of time at, including witnessing the murder of one of her half-brothers by a cousin who was challenging him for leadership of the sect. Most of all, though, I remember being amazed at how intelligent, articulate, and emotionally together she seemed. She had gone to college on various scholarships and done very well. While she had married a man who ended up abusing her, she had quickly left him and taken her baby with her, despite her fears that it would mean her having to leave the country. I couldn't imagine how someone could grow up in the environment she did, and still manage to become a decent, relatively normal, and responsible person. But, she had, and I was truly inspired by her. I remember thinking at the time, that if I practiced law for 50 years, I would probably never have a case that had such a fascinating story behind it as this little VAWA immigration application that I managed to pick up in a law school clinic. And, more than seven years later, after two years of big firm civil work (including a fun little foray into the 2000 presidential election litigation), and five years of public defender work handling cases from driving with a suspended license all the way up to murder, I find that I was right. That case--helping that remarkable young woman--remains the most interesting case I have ever been involved in. I wonder what she is doing now, and whether she has heard the latest news about her sister. I hope she and her child are well.