EL PASO — Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested an undocumented victim of domestic abuse while she was seeking a protective order against her abuser at an El Paso courthouse. The woman had been accompanied to the courthouse by a victim’s advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, where the woman had been living.
“ICE should release this woman immediately and announce as loudly and clearly as it can that undocumented victims of domestic violence — or of any other crime, for that matter — will not be punished for reporting the crimes committed against them,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “This wrongheaded enforcement action sends the message that if a victim is undocumented, future domestic abuse may go unpunished. Home invasions may go unpunished. Rape may go unpunished. Human trafficking may go unpunished. If ICE stands by this arrest, it will make every city in America with an undocumented population — which is every city in America — less safe.”
Last week’s arrest is all the more remarkable in light of a 2011 ICE memo that urges discretion when agents are dealing with an “immediate victim or witness to a crime.” Additionally, it is against El Paso County policy to inquire as to citizenship status in order not to discourage victims or witnesses from coming forward.
“Both state and federal officials have been clamoring for greater public safety, while at the same time supporting anti-‘sanctuary city’ policies that disincentivize vulnerable populations from reporting crimes to law enforcement,” said Astrid Dominguez, Policy Strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “Such policies are, charitably speaking, counterproductive. We cannot yet calculate how damaging this single arrest will be to community safety throughout the country, but it’s safe to say that it will be considerable. We call upon our federal and state governments to protect and respect the rights of all victims of crime.”