Federal immigration agents arrested an undocumented transgender woman in Texas last week just moments after she obtained a protective order against her alleged abuser - and her abuser may have tipped off the agents. "In some cases, ICE agents approach people using the pretext that they are looking for a specific person, but ended up questioning people about their legal status in the United States". It says that ICE agents were "conducting surveillance" at the courthouse "in attempts of seeing" her, then took the woman into custody when she walked out. Her office is investigating the incident.
After the hearing, ICE agents followed the woman into the hallway, where she was arrested, Bernal said.
"Those of us that work in this field know of many instances where survivors have not come forward due to the fear of being reported and have an abuser maintain control over them".
Bernal is not alone in those these fears.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment Wednesday to questions about the incident.
A U.S. Border Patrol Agent claimed in court documents that agents with the Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Taskforce detained Irvin Gonzalez, 33, outside the courthouse on February 9.
Her alleged criminal history includes convictions for false imprisonment in 2013; assault, probation violation, domestic violence in 2011 and false imprisonment-minor-parental in 2010. Six ICE officers were waiting for the woman inside the building, Bernal explained. Gonzalez was being escorted out of the courthouse by an El Paso attorney when ICE agents stopped her and arrested her, Bernal said, adding that at least one ICE agent sat through Gonzalez's court hearing before detaining her.
Bernal told KDBC her office plans to reach out to the federal government after an internal investigation is finished. "I would say that is being detained", she said.
The legality of Trump's ban
Donald Trump has announced he will introduce an executive action next week to "comprehensively protect our country". Such a move would eliminate the legal precedent of the appeals court's ruling against the administration.
Immigrant advocates and local law enforcers expressed fears on Thursday that the arrest of an undocumented woman at a Texas courthouse as she sought protection from domestic violence will discourage others from asking for help.
But in a statement, Ice said that the woman was arrested on a felony charge of illegally re-entering the U.S. "after receiving a tip from another law enforcement agency indicating that a previously deported felon had illegally re-entered the United States".
And once in immigration detention, transgender women often face continued abuse at the hands of staff or other detainees - particularly when they are held with men instead of women.
In late 2016, Gonzalez made three police reports alleging that she had been punched, kicked, and chased with a knife by De Avila.
Judge Gutierrez said ICE agents should avoid effectively assisting domestic abusers by acting on their tips against their partners. "There's no place for that - especially in family court", Bernal said.
Threatening undocumented victims with deportation, or telling them that they can't get help without being deported, is a "really classic abuse tactic", McLaughlin said.
Bernal, El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and domestic violence campaigners are now anxious the arrest will keep men and women living with abusive partners from seeking out help.