In El Paso, Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested and detained an undocumented woman outside a county court building while she was in the process of obtaining a protective order against her partner. The woman is allegedly the victim of life-threatening domestic violence.
El Paso County officials, immigrant rights activists, and women’s rights groups are deeply disturbed by this arrest. County officials say that ICE’s actions could prevent other undocumented victims of domestic violence from coming forward out of fear. El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal and her office deals specifically with victims of domestic violence who seek court-mandated protective orders against their abusers. She said:
“Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives.”
Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns,” Bernal said. She added that ICE allegedly arrested the woman after receiving a tip from her alleged abuser.
“We will do everything in our power to get [victims of abuse] the protection they need,” Bernal said. She explained that immigration status is not an issue that her office looks into before helping victims. Her office is investigating the incident.
According to Bernal’s office, the unidentified alleged victim filed three separate police reports in 2016, claiming that her partner had kicked and punched her. She also claims that he chased her with a knife.
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar told the El Paso Times, “The fact that this occurred in a protective-order court is shocking to me.”
Here are some disturbing statistics about undocumented domestic violence courtesy of the Texas Civil Rights Project:
- A recent study in New York City found that 51 percent of intimate partner homicide victims were foreign-born, while 45 percent were born in the United States.
- Forty-eight percent of Latinas in one study reported that their partner’s violence against them had increased since they immigrated to the United States.ii
- A survey of immigrant Korean women found that 60 percent had been battered by their husbands
- Married immigrant women experience higher levels of physical and sexual abuse than unmarried immigrant women, 59.5 percent compared to 49.8 percent, respectively
- Abusers often use their partners’ immigration status as a tool of control. In such situations, it is common for a batterer to exert control over his partner’s immigration status in order to force her to remain in the relationship.v
- Immigrant women often suffer higher rates of battering than U.S. citizens because they may come from cultures that accept domestic violence or because they have less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens. Additionally, immigrant batterers and victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system do not apply to them
- Battered immigrant women who attempt to flee may not have access to bilingual shelters, financial assistance, or food. It is also unlikely that they will have the assistance of a certified interpreter in court, when reporting complaints to the police or a 911 operator, or even in acquiring information about their rights and the legal system.i
This troubling case also calls into question just who’s being targeted by ICE’s ramped up deportation campaign being directed by President Donald Trump. Almost 700 immigrants were the targets of raids across the U.S. in recent days. Including Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, who was detained in Seattle, Washington by an agent who reportedly told him “It doesn’t matter because you weren’t born in this country.”
It seems that Trump sloppy, haphazard style of governance is making the lives of immigrants from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds in America a living hell. Trump defends the increased ICE raids, stating that he’s just fulfilling his campaign promise to secure the borders. It’s unlikely that Trump gave a second thought to any unintended harmful consequences nor would he have cared if the concerns were voiced.
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