Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz has asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop the deportation process to grant clemency to an Ethiopian woman who killed her husband in self defense in 2013.
Amreya Rahmeto Shefa, 48, came to Richfield, Minnesota, with her two children to live with her husband, Habibi Gessese Tesema in 2012. She claims he kept her as a prisoner in their home, raping and beating her on an almost daily basis until she stabbed him in December 2013, according to court records.
Gov. Waltz has asked ICE to ‘administratively close’ deportation proceedings while officials review her applications for nonimmigrant status for crime victims.
Last year, the immigration court was ordered to decide if Shefa’s conviction is considered a ‘particularly serious crime,’ which requires deportation, but her attorney said the the status of her hearing remains unknown.
Shefa, an Ethiopian immigrant, was convicted of manslaughter in 2014 for killing her abusive husband Habibi Gessese Tesema, stabbing him 30 times
Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz has asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ‘administratively close’ deportation proceedings so that he can pardon Amreya Rahmeto Shefa
Habibi Tesema beat and raped Shefa almost daily before she killed him, she testified. Although his family adamantly denied these claims, a Minnesota court found the claims of abuse to be credible
The governor has lobbied hard for Shefa to remain in the U.S. and attempted to grant her a pardon. However, Minnesota’s Board of Pardons — consisting of the governor, attorney general and state Supreme Court chief justice — requires unanimous approval.
Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison voted to pardon Shefa, 48, but Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea disagreed, explaining to the woman, ‘You had options available to you that night. Options you did not take.’
‘Due to the recent ruling, I am unable to grant Ms. Shefa the clemency that she deserves, leaving her at risk of deportation,’ Walz wrote in a letter to Timothy Perry, chief of staff for ICE in Washington, D.C.
‘Ms. Shefa’s life will be in grave danger if she is deported to Ethiopia. She will be vulnerable to the practice of retaliatory killing at the hands of her late-husband’s family, who have made credible threats against her life,’ the September 24, letter reads.
Shefa and her defense team have said in court that she is will be killed by her late- husband’s family to avenge his death if she is sent back to Ethiopia.
‘There is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear revolving around her situation,’ Andrew Crowder, an attorney for Shefa, said.
‘I think it is all going to come down to whether she is going to be taken back into custody pending her immigration proceedings. It is just awful for her, having started building a life of her own for the first time in a decade.’
Shefa worked as a merchant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when she was introduced to Tesema, 48, who lived in Richfield and came to Africa in 2006 looking for a wife.
After several years of marriage and two children, Shefa and her two children finally moved to Richfield. But family life in the U.S. was not what Shefa expected.
Shefa finished her prison sentence in 2017 and will be deported by ICE if Walz’s request is denied
She said that Tesema would ask to bring another woman into their bed and at times used a sex device on her when he raped her. She also claimed that he beat her if he was unsatisfied with dinner or her cleaning.
Shefa said that her late husband warned her against ever leaving the home and told her the police would deport her and take her children away if she ever called them.
On December 1, 2013 Tesema began raping his wife while under the influence of drugs and alcohol before she grabbed a knife and stabbed him 30 times, according to court records.
He stumbled into the bathroom where he was found dead, naked in the bathtub after Shefa called the police.
‘I did not mean to kill him, I just needed him to stop raping me,’ Shefa explained in an affidavit.
Hennepin County Judge Elizabeth Cutter believed that Shefa was beaten and raped by Tesema the night that she stabbed him but convicted her of manslaughter in 2014 based on the excessive force she used.
She was set to be deported and detained by ICE after her prison sentence ended in 2017 but has since been released on bond while immigration proceedings continue.
In 2019, Shefa applied for a pardon after exhausting all her appeals, but her late husband’s family testified against her.
Tesema’s family described Shefa as a gold-digging killer and claimed that Tesema was a gentle, giving man who they never saw hurt his wife. ‘She’s dangerous to this community. She’s [a] danger for our family,’ Ahmed Tesema, Shefa’s brother-in-law said in court, ‘She is evil.’
Assistant County Attorney Cheri Townsend argued that Shefa was motivated by jealousy as Tesema often tried to convince her to have a threesome. But Judge Cutter found the family statement’s uncredible and concluded that evidence proved Shefa’s claims of abuse.
Shefa was deemed unfit to raise her two children, who are now living with Tesema’s brother Ahmed, but she hopes to be reunited with them one day.
Shefa sued the state, with Waltz’s support, over the requirement that pardons be granted unanimously by the three-person panel. A Ramsey County judge ruled that the statute was unconstitutional but the decision was overruled by the Minnesota Supreme Court last month.
Without a legislative change, which is unlikely to happen soon, Shefa’s future remains up to federal immigration authorities until June 2022 when the Board of Pardons would be able to consider a new pardon application from Shefa.