Immigration

An Undocumented Woman Was Arrested While Seeking Legal Protection from Domestic Abuse

Trump's xenophobia has a human cost.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Chess Ocampo

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested an undocumented woman at a Texas courthouse where she was seeking legal protection from domestic abuse. According to the Guardian, two federal agents showed up in a domestic violence court and apprehended the woman moments after she was granted an order of protection. A local lawyer speculated that the woman’s abuser tipped the ICE agents off to her immigration status and whereabouts. The case is likely to heighten fears in undocumented communities, dissuading those in dangerous or abuse situations from seeking help.

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told CBS News the woman had endured “serious abuse,” and expressed shock at the work that had gone into making the arrest.  

“We were stunned that ICE would go to these lengths for someone that is not a violent criminal,” Bernal told the outlet. “I cannot recall an instance where ICE agents have gone into the domestic violence court, specifically looking for a victim of domestic violence.”

Michelle Ortiz of Americans for Immigrant Justice said that in this heightened climate of xenophobia, ushered in by an administration that has put out overtly anti-immigrant messaging and legislation, fear in undocumented communities has reached levels not seen in decades.

“Enforcement action like this one, I mean it takes us back 30 years and it’s terrifying because we do so much outreach and community events with law enforcement trying to get the word out that this is safe, and in your home country it might not be safe, and in your home country there is corruption and there is law enforcement that does not care about domestic violence and is not going to protect women—but you’re in the United States now, where everyone is protected regardless of immigration status,” Ortiz told the Guardian. “And I’m really afraid that we won’t be able to say that anymore. It’s disheartening and frankly it’s terrifying.”

“Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives,” Bernal told the El Paso Times. “Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns.”

Per the Guardian report, the woman had experienced multiple episodes of abuse. In response, she had “filed three police reports" which detail incidents involving "punching, kicking, choking and having a knife thrown at her.” The video footage shows the two ICE agents entering the courthouse and later arriving on the 10th floor, where protective order hearings are held. The footage concludes with the agents leading the woman outside.

“They came into the courthouse,” El Paso district attorney Jaime Esparza told the Guardian, “and I think it sends a horrible message to victims of domestic violence on whether or not they’re actually going to have the ability to seek justice in our courthouse.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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