Texas county officials decry immigration arrest at domestic violence court

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By Jon Herskovitz | AUSTIN, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas Federal agents crossed a line by
going into an El Paso family court to take a transgender woman
who was the victim of domestic violence into custody for
suspected immigration law violations, county officials said on
Thursday.

The arrest last week had a chilling effect on victims of
domestic abuse in the Texas border city who turn to law
enforcement for help that could save their lives, they said.

County officials will be meeting with U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Friday to let them know their
concerns.

“We are hoping that this is an isolated incident. We are
fearful that it is not. This courthouse should be a place where
people come for protection,” El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne
Bernal told a teleconference.

The case comes in the wake of a crackdown on illegal
immigration by new U.S. President Donald Trump. U.S. immigration
officers last week arrested more than 680 people they said were
in the country illegally in a broad enforcement action that
alarmed immigrant rights groups.

ICE said in a statement it was acting on a tip from another
law enforcement agency, without addressing the apprehension that
started in the domestic violence court. The suspect it
identified as Irvin Gonzalez has a criminal history and had been
previously deported, it said.

The suspect had been beaten several times by her partner and
had just been granted a restraining order, the county officials
said.

An ICE agent followed the suspect into the court and then,
with another agent escorted her out after the order was granted.
She was placed in custody on the street outside the court, the
county officials said.

“In the business of domestic violence, victims don’t always
come with a completely clean history or background. Our job is
to offer protection regardless of her criminal history,” Bernal
said.

An arrest affidavit filed in federal court said Gonzalez was
a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States, adding the
suspect had been convicted of crimes including stealing U.S.
mail and assault, the affidavit said.

The woman is being held at the El Paso County jail under a
federal detainer.

“This wrongheaded enforcement action sends the message that
if a victim is undocumented, future domestic abuse may go
unpunished,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, a civil rights group.



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