‘This is really unprecedented’: ICE detains woman seeking domestic abuse protection at Texas courthouse

A hearing in El Paso County in Texas went from ordinary to “unprecedented” last week when half a dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her.

The woman, a citizen of Mexico who was living in El Paso had been driven to the courthouse by a victim’s advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse where she had been living.

She left under arrest.

“This is really unprecedented,” El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told The Washington Post.

It was the first time in her 23 years at the courthouse, Bernal said, that she can remember ICE agents making their presence known during a protective order hearing. The agents had come to stake out the woman, identified by her initials I.E.G., because, Bernal speculates, they likely received a tip from the only other person who knew the time and place of the hearing — the woman’s alleged abuser.

The woman had a prior criminal record and had been previously deported, but, according to Bernal, had no current outstanding state warrants.

“It really was a stunning event,” Bernal said. “It has an incredible chilling effect for all undocumented victims of any crime in our community.”

It is county policy not to ask about citizenship status, Bernal said, because officials want to make clear that all victims of crime in El Paso are entitled to the same protections within the criminal justice system.

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The arrest of the domestic violence complainant comes at a time of considerable unrest and anxiety within the immigrant community nationwide as President Trump begins to make good on the strict immigration policies that defined his campaign. Since taking office just four weeks ago, Trump has threatened to cut off federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” which have a policy of protecting illegal immigrants and not cooperating with federal authorities to deport them. And, Trump says, he started the planning process for his Mexican border wall.

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Chris Alexakiswomen, government