ICE Detains Woman Seeking Court Protection From Allegedly Abusive Partner

February 16th 2017

Mike Rothschild

After obtaining a protective order against her allegedly abusive boyfriend, an El Paso, Texas, woman was promptly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers for being undocumented.

The case is another in a series of arrests by ICE of undocumented immigrants in the weeks after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. While ICE has insisted that the raids are its normal enforcement procedures, immigrants and advocates are bracing for a major uptick in arrests and deportations.

In El Paso, this took the form of ICE agents staking out a courthouse where a woman, identified only by her initials, was seeking a court order to keep her boyfriend, also an undocumented immigrant, away from her due to alleged domestic abuse. El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal told The Washington Post that the only other person who would've known the woman's whereabouts was the boyfriend, and that it's possible he turned her in to avoid his own deportation.

According to a criminal complaint uncovered by the El Paso Times, the woman "might have a history of deportation." Even so, Bernal, whose office prosecutes domestic abuse cases, believes that the arrest of a woman obtaining a protective order might cause other undocumented women to stay with abusive men.

“An incident like what happened in the courthouse last week really puts fear in people,” Bernal told the Washington Post. “One of the things that really worries me is that it only takes one isolated incident like this.”

While it's not clear if ICE will continue to arrest undocumented immigrants taking advantage of the legal system, this incident is another in a harsher deportation policy that's sent shock waves through the immigrant community.

Already, an Arizona woman was arrested and deported after showing up to her usual check-in with immigration officials, while another woman in Denver is hiding in a church rather than check in with ICE and a Seattle man living legally under the DACA amnesty provided by the Obama administration was arrested on suspicion of being a gang member.

Beyond that, fear of mass sweeps and roundups of undocumented immigrants is causing false rumors and spreading fear throughout the country. Los Angeles and the Bay Area in California, Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; and Boulder, Colorado, have all had to use government resources in efforts to calm panics over non-existent immigration checkpoints, raids and mass arrests.

The immigration enforcement increase also prompted immigration advocates to team up with business leaders to launch Thursday "A Day Without Immigrants" - which also spurred a trending hashtag on Twitter - a national strike and boycott where industries that depend on immigrant labor, including food service and construction, will close for a day.

The intent is to demonstrate how integral immigration is to the national economy, and to show the Trump administration that its increased arrests, deportations and entry bans could have dire consequences for business and food prices. In the case of the woman in El Paso, it could send immigrants farther into the shadows and put abused women and children at further risk.