El Paso

County attorney to meet with ICE to discuss arrest of transgender woman

Deportation Dispute

EL PASO, Texas - County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal and County Judge Veronica Escobar discussed surveillance video showing ICE agents taking into custody an undocumented transgender woman seeking a protective order in a domestic violence case.

The elected officials made their case against federal agents, who they say did not tell the truth when filing the case against the woman they took into custody.

Court records filed by a Border Patrol agent claim ICE agents took the woman, identified in court documents as Irvin Gonzalez, into custody outside the County Courthouse. Surveillance footage shows that was not the case.

"She clearly was in custody, you see his hand on her arm. She was not free to go, she was in his custody," Escobar said, referring to footage showing ICE agents escorting the woman out of the courthouse.

"When we exited the jury room they were ready, they stepped forward when they saw her come out. They identified themselves to her. One agent stepped up to her and placed his hand on her elbow and started walking her out," said Lucila Flores Camarena, supervisor of the county attorney's protective order unit.

"Agents arrested Gonzalez after receiving a tip from another law enforcement agency indicating a previously deported felon had illegally re-entered the U.S," A statement from ICE reads. "Gonzalez has been deported six times. Gonzalez also has a lengthy criminal history with at least eight convictions on charges including false imprisonment, assault, larceny, domestic violence and illegal re-entry."

"What you hear is them attacking the victim again," Bernal said Thursday.  "What you don't hear is them saying that they weren't in the courthouse, that it happened on the street, which I think is interesting because that seemed to be the main point of the affidavit."

Bernal said her officer received reports that as many as six ICE agents were on the 10th floor that day, although the video only shows two. "In this community, and in every community, it doesn't matter if you have a criminal history," Bernal said, "If you have a victim of domestic violence, you have the right for the prosecutors and the social services to protect you."

Bernal plans to meet with ICE officials Friday to discuss the arrest. "There were no warrants for her that would indicate she was a violent person. A person would be considered violent if there was a warrant out for them," the county attorney said.

ABC-7 confirmed that the ICE web site states that courthouses are not considered sensitive places, but Bernal said agents have never come into the courthouse before and they don't want them to start doing that now.

Escobar stated several times the arrest is not representative of what El Paso is all about. ABC-7 asked her whether she thinks President Donald Trump's new administration may have something to do with this move by ICE.

"I will tell you, I have been very concerned and have had a fear that the rhetoric that is used by the commander in chief of this country will permeate the culture of our federal agencies," Escobar said.

Both Escobar and Bernal said they hope this is an isolated incident. They also plan to meet with Congressman Rep. Beto O'Rourke on Friday in hopes of getting a further explanation and assurance it won't happen again.

Bernal is keeping an eye on Gonzalez's case. "She's in the county jail, one of my lawyers visited with her (Thursday), and given her circumstances, I think she's doing pretty well. She's been assigned a federal public defender who will be representing her in the criminal case."

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