The arrest of an alleged domestic abuse victim in Texas by immigration agents has led to a warning victims of crimes may not come forward if they are undocumented.
The arrest came as the Trump administration steps up a crackdown on undocumented immigrants with criminal records across the country.
The arrest of a woman who reported domestic abuse in El Paso was taken up by immigration advocates and attorneys who warned it could set a dangerous precedent, reported the Texas Tribune.
An undocumented, transgender woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials soon after receiving protection from an alleged abuser in a court in El Paso. The 33-year-old woman was taken to a detention center where she will likely face deportation.
ICE said the woman is a deported felon with six deportations and at least eight convictions for offenses including domestic violence, false imprisonment, and assault.
El Paso District Attorney, Jaime Esparza, said that while the woman in question has a criminal history, he is concerned about the access of federal law enforcement agents to the courthouse. He said the legal status of a domestic violence victim should not be relevant when he or she is reporting a crime or offering testimony.
According to the Tribune, the woman filed three police reports against her alleged attacker, who reportedly punched her, kicked her, and pursued her with a knife. She was being escorted away from the courthouse by an El Paso attorney when ICE agents stopped her and arrested her.
Texas is at the forefront of the immigration battle. In Austin, Sally Hernandez, the new Travis County sheriff, is defying ICE over immigration detainer requests. These are issued by federal authorities to hold a prisoner while his or her immigration status is checked.
Hernandez said she is upholding constitutional rights to due process for people in the criminal justice system. She will only allow detainer requests to be honored for inmates charged with serious crimes like murder and kidnapping.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is supporting a bill that would punish so called “sanctuary cities” that oppose detainer requests. The legislation would withhold funding from cities like Austin that oppose the policy. Abbott wants law enforcement officials who defy federal laws to be removed from their jobs.
Opponents fear the immigration crackdown will prevent undocumented people testifying as witnesses in criminal proceedings and render them more opaque.