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ICE detains domestic violence victim in court

18 February 2017

"I can not recall an instance where ICE agents have gone into the domestic violence court, specifically looking for a victim of domestic violence", she said. It provides protections for marginalized groups of women, including immigrants.

Bernal plans to meet with ICE officials Friday to discuss the arrest.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents detain an immigrant on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Abusers tend to continue to abuse new victims, and a history of domestic violence is a common factor among mass murderers - like Pulse shooter Omar Mateen.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said she is anxious that word about the woman's arrest is already spreading in the immigrant community - which is large in a border city such as El Paso.

"We are hoping that this is an isolated incident", said Bernal, a Democrat.

Federal immigration officials reportedly arrested an illegal immigrant in Texas who was seeking help for domestic violence.

Bernal, whose office represents domestic violence victims seeking protective orders, said she believes the tip came from the alleged abuser, the only other person who knew the time and place of the hearing. The woman had been accompanied to the courthouse by a victim's advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, where the woman had been living. However, Gonzalez's case has created a sense of fear among those who receive assistance at the center. She and other county officials are anxious that news of the arrest will prevent other victims from coming forward. Among those troubled: El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal.

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She said that a federal agent sat through all of last week's proceeding, blocking one of the exits from the inside.

Undocumented women are at increased risk for domestic violence due to several factors, including isolation from social supports, economic instability and a lack of information about resources.

And once in immigration detention, transgender women often face continued abuse at the hands of staff or other detainees - particularly when they are held with men instead of women. "It has an incredible chilling effect for all undocumented victims of any crime in our community".

CBS affiliate KDBC-TV reports the incident took place at the El Paso County Courthouse last week.

'Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns'.

"This departure from that collaboration and communication we see as very unsafe, and we are already feeling the alarm that is rippling through our very safe community", Escobar said.

A 2011 ICE memorandum, which addressed the prosecutorial discretions officers must take when dealing with victims, states that officers must act in a manner which "avoid (s) deterring individuals from reporting crimes and from pursuing actions to protect their civil rights". An ICE affidavit, however, alleges that agents didn't speak to the woman inside the courthouse, but rather first made contact with her outside the building. "ICE is sending a very risky and disconcerting message to our community". The attorney also explained that it's county courthouse policy to refrain from asking abuse survivors about their citizenship status, because they want to make sure they feel comfortable with and protected by the legal system.

ICE detains domestic violence victim in court