Below is an excerpt from an article about Aylaliya Birru, a Black immigrant survivor of domestic violence in California who is incarcerated and faces deportation as a consequence for defending her life. Support the grassroots campaign to #FreeLiya here!
Article written by Aaron Morrison for The Appeal.
Aylaliya Birru has served over four years in a California prison for assaulting her husband, who she said was physically abusive. A pardon from Governor Gavin Newsom is her last hope to stay in the U.S.
Aylaliya Birru’s life in Roseville, California, 20 miles northeast of Sacramento, was nothing like she had dreamed when she left friends and family in her native Ethiopia to build a home with her husband. Birru had married Silas D’Aloisio, a former Marine, in 2012, when he was working at the American embassy in Addis Ababa.
Three weeks after Birru arrived in the U.S. on a green card on April 1, 2014, she and D’Aloisio became verbally abusive toward each other. That summer, she said D’Aloisio became physically abusive. That October, D’Aloisio purchased a handgun; he kept it in their bedroom closet, taking it out and looking at it when fights got especially bad, Birru claimed.
“He had become a very violent person physically, and I was in constant fear of what he could possibly do to me next,” she later wrote about her experience. “He even would tell me he sometimes worried he might end up hurting me really bad.”
On Dec. 13, 2014, Birru confronted D’Aloisio at their home; she suspected he was cheating on her. The vicious argument that ensued continued the next morning, when D’Aloisio allegedly shoved Birru against a wall, pulled her by her hair and hit her in the face and ribs with his fists. She said he called her a “psycho whore.” When the beating stopped, Birru retrieved her husband’s .45-caliber handgun and inserted what she thought was an empty magazine. As she pointed the weapon at her husband, Birru pressed him for answers about his infidelity. She thought he needed to hear the click of an unloaded gun to convince him it was no joke. When D’Aloisio turned away from Birru, she pulled the trigger, and a bullet struck him in the back. D’Aloisio fled their home, and neighbors called the Roseville Police Department. Birru also dialed 911, and the police arrested and booked her into the Placer County Jail on charges of felony assault with a firearm and corporal injury to a spouse.
D’Aloisio survived the shooting but suffered a collapsed lung and fractured ribs. He admitted to verbally abusing Birru but denied ever physically assaulting her. D’Aloisio could not be reached for comment for this article.
Birru, like many women, was punished for defending herself from an abuser. She was sentenced to six years in Folsom State Prison for the felony assault charge.
A majority of incarcerated women have experienced physical or sexual violence prior to their imprisonment. As an immigrant, Birru also faces deportation as a result of her felony conviction. And because Birru is Black, she is more than three times as likely to be deported on criminal grounds than other immigrants. For Birru, her last resort is an act of clemency by Governor Gavin Newsom, whose office has not yet acted in her case.