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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in El Paso arrested a woman reportedly in response to a tip that may have come from her abuser. (Photo: AP)

ICE Raids May Scare Abuse Survivors Into Staying With Partners, Advocates Fear

Women have been targets of several high-profile raids under President Donald Trump

Nadia Prupis

President Donald Trump's mass immigration raids—which have swept up longtime residents with no criminal histories, including an undocumented immigrant with license to live and work legally in the U.S.—have also led to the arrest of a Texas woman obtaining a restraining order against an abusive partner.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in El Paso arrested the woman, who is transgender, on February 9, reportedly in response to a tip that may have come from the woman's abuser and live-in boyfriend, who had been detained earlier that week.

County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told the El Paso Times that the woman's arrest may now scare other undocumented immigrants facing domestic violence to stay with their partners out of fear of being deported or separated from their families.

"Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives," said Bernal, whose office represents survivors seeking court orders against their abusers. "Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns."

It is unclear if the woman was arrested while obtaining the order, or on the street, the newspaper notes, but she is now being held in the El Paso County Jail under an ICE detainer.

65th District Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued the restraining order, said ICE agents should avoid arresting undocumented immigrants based on their partners' tips, as this effectively helps the abusers.

Many high-profile raids under Trump's watch have targeted women. The arrest last week of Guadalupe García de Rayos, a decades-long Phoenix, Arizona resident and mother, sparked spontaneous protests as local community members blockaded a deportation van where she was being held.

And the New York Times on Wednesday highlighted the story of a woman who has taken refuge in a church basement in Denver, Colorado, out of fear of being detained if she shows up for a routine check-in with immigration officials.

Jeannette Vizguerra, who has lived and worked in the U.S. since 1997 and is known locally as an advocate of immigration reform, was caught with fake identification forms in 2009 that her lawyer says were acquired to help her get work. She has been able to postpone deportation five times since then—but under Trump, who has revoked Obama-era policies to deport serious criminals and instead made any undocumented immigrant with a record subject to arrest, her situation has grown more dire.

Vizguerra entered the basement of First Unitarian Society church in Denver on Tuesday night with her three youngest children. She had helped prepare the space three years earlier with other immigration reform advocates. Under federal law, immigration agents are to avoid entering churches and other "sensitive locations" unless they have advance approval or "exigent circumstances."

She ultimately chose not to go to her check-in with immigration officials on Wednesday, telling Times reporter Julie Turkewitz, "My intuition tells me that if I go in, I'm not coming out."

After skipping the meeting, she learned from her lawyer that her request for another deportation stay had been rejected.


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