Last week an undocumented woman in El Paso, Texas walked into a local courthouse to get a protective order against a former boyfriend for domestic abuse. She was met by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who had been tipped off she would be there and was promptly arrested.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, whose office launched an investigation into the incident, told the Washington Post that the event was “really unprecedented.” In the 23 years that Bernal has been at the courthouse, she has never heard of ICE agents showing up during a protective order hearing.
“It really was a stunning event,” Bernal told to the Washington Post. “It has an incredible chilling effect for all undocumented victims of any crime in our community.” People are now wondering: why would anyone who is undocumented report any crime, abuse or mistreatment if it means risking deportation?
The woman who was arrested is identified only by the initials I.E.G. According to the ICE affidavit of the event, they were alerted by someone that I.E.G. would be at the courthouse. Although the affidavit does not state who the information came from, Bernal suspects it came from the only other person who knew I.E.G. would be there: the boyfriend she was trying to get a protective order against.
The ICE affidavit contends that I.E.G. has a criminal record that dates back to 2010 and that they were “conducting surveillance” at the courthouse “in attempts of seeing” her.
Still, Bernal finds it strange that ICE would stake out a courthouse that issues protective orders. “If that person was that dangerous, state law enforcement would have been looking for her,” Bernal said. “It doesn’t make sense why the resources would be used to go after victims of domestic abuse.”
It remains to be seen if this was an isolated incident or the new normal under President Trump. Bernal has been trying to get an “assurance from ICE that this is an isolated incident and that this isn’t going to happen again” in order to ease the fears of the immigrant community. So far, ICE has made no such assurance.
[H/T] Washington Post: Click here to find out more about what went down at the El Paso courthouse.