Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents last week arrested an undocumented woman who had just received a protective order from County Courthouse after she alleged she was a victim of domestic abuse.
The criminal complaint state that earlier in the month, Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Taskforce agents received a tip that Irvin Gonzalez, who has been identified as transgender, was staying at the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence in the United States despite being previously deported.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, who represents domestic violence victims and help them seek court orders against their abusers, believe the call came from the victim’s own live-in boyfriend, Mario Alberto De Avila, who is also her alleged abuser, and who was also detained by the ICE.
It is not unusual for abusers to seek control of their victims by threatening to inform the immigration authorities about them, said 65th District Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued Gonzalez's protective order.
Whatever Gonzalez own history is, the woman made three police reports in the last year, claiming that she had been kicked, punched and chased with a knife by her boyfriend.
Investigators, who probed the matter on behalf of Bernal said the arrest was made in the courthouse where she had just been granted protective order.
Bernal’s office does not ask for the victims’ immigration status and asserts that ICE agents who act on such tips and raid protective-order courts to arrest people are, in essence, assisting the abusers.
There’s no place for that — especially in family court,” she said.
She was also very disturbed by the arrest, claiming that it might leave other domestic abuse victims, who already fear coming to court, even worse off.
“Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives. Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns,” the attorney said.
After the incident, it is possible that domestic violence victim, who have been physically and emotionally beaten down, will be even more reluctant to come forward and report abuses, stated Stephani Karr, executive director of El Paso Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, where Gonzalez was staying.
"It's certainly an underreported crime," Karr said. "If there's a fear they or their families will get deported, they won't come forward."
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar is concerned the news of the arrest has already spread throughout the immigrant community. She has requested Bernal’s office to put together a pamphlet detailing people’s right if any immigration officer comes to their door to arrest them.
Thumbnail/ Banner credit: Reuters