Federal agents arrested an undocumented trans woman after she sought out help for domestic abuse.
Irvin Gonzalez was arrested at the El Paso County Courthouse for suspected immigration law violations on 9 February.
At the court, she had just received a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend.
‘She had been kicked, punched, slapped, she had been chased around with a knife, she had a knife thrown at her,’ County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told ABC 7.
‘So she came to our office seeking a protective order and seeking protection from her partner.’
As Gonzales left she was arrested – and there are two separate stories of how it happened.
The criminal complaint filed on 9 February says federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Gonzalez on the street.
But speaking to ABC-7, Bernal said Gonzalez was arrested ‘while leaving the courtroom’.
‘We later learned there were up to six ICE agents in the courthouse looking for our client,’ she said.
‘This is a situation which has never happened before in the courthouse and we were all pretty stunned and we are hoping this isolated incident never happens again.
‘We will be reaching out to ICE officials to make sure that ICE agrees that it will never try to arrest the victim of domestic violence in a sensitive environment like a courtroom.’
According to their website, the ICE does not consider courthouses to be sensitive locations.
Bernal also claims the ICE agents said they received a tip that Gonzalez would be at the court.
The attorney told the El Paso Times she suspects the tip had come from Gonzalez’ ex-boyfriend and alleged abuser, Mario Alberto De Avila, who had been detained by ICE earlier in the day.
The criminal complaint against Gonzalez further states Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Taskforce agents received information about Gonzales being in the US on Feb 2.
At the time, she was staying at the city’s Center Against Sexual and Family Violence.
Bernal, El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and domestic violence campaigners are now worried the arrest will keep men and women living with abusive partners from seeking out help.
Abusers often threaten partners with informing immigration enforcement should they seek help.
Gonzalez has been charged with illegally re-entering the US. According to the ICE, she has been deported six times since 2010.
Her deportations reportedly followed arrests for crimes including false imprisonment, assault, and stolen mail.
Yesterday (16 February), Chelsea Clinton tweeted about Gonzalez’ arrest, calling it ‘horrifying’.
I need a thesaurus. What’s another word for horrifying? Sick? Awful? Running out of adjectives these days that mean unconscionably terrible https://t.co/jFs2istGbH
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 16, 2017
‘I need a thesaurus. What’s another word for horrifying? Sick? Awful,’ she said.
‘Running out of adjectives these days that mean unconscionably terrible.’
Gay Star News has contacted the ICE for comment.