Federal immigration authorities reportedly arrived at the El Paso courthouse last week to arrest an undocumented woman who had just been granted a protective order after alleging domestic abuse.
As the El Paso Times reported on Wednesday, a criminal complaint filed on February 9 says Homeland Security officials received a tip that Irvin Gonzalez, who is also known as Ervin, was living in the country–and staying at a center for domestic violence victims–despite having previously being deported. Gonzalez's attorney, Jo Anne Bernal, told the newspaper her client is transgender, and that she suspects Gonzalez's abuser tipped off the authorities.
According to the complaint, Gonzalez has been deported six times since 2010 after arrests for possession of stolen mail, false imprisonment, and assault. But although the complaint said that Gonzalez was arrested on the street, Bernal says that's simply not true. Six Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers stormed the 10th floor of the El Paso County Courthouse to make the arrest, she told the newspaper.
Now victims' rights advocates are voicing concerns that the arrest could have a chilling effect on domestic abuse victims, who will likely feel even more pressure to stay silent if their abuser can use their immigration status as a weapon against them.
“Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives,” Bernal said. “Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns.”
Mario Alberto De Avila, the man accused of abusing Gonzalez, is currently in jail on charges of forging a financial document, the complaint also said, and was in custody at the time of the tip-off.