El Paso

Shelter officials say undocumented victims of violence should not fear ICE

Shelter Safety?

EL PASO, Texas - The executive director of the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence said victims should not fear about their safety if they seek shelter at the center.

On Feb. 9, 2017, ICE agents took Irvin Gonzalez, also known as Ervin Gonzalez, into custody outside the courthouse. Gonzalez, who identifies as a transgender woman, was at the county courthouse when he was taken into custody.

A criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7 states Gonzalez was trying to file a protective order against Mario Alberta de Avila, the man who who reportedly alerted ICE Gonzalez was at the courthouse. 

The document states Gonzalez, an alleged victim of domestic violence, had an extensive criminal history and had been deported from the U.S. on multiple occasions.

The court document states Gonzales was residing at a Center Against Sexual and Family Violence resource center, raising concerns as to whether this type of shelter is a safe place from immigration officials.

"What we say to everyone that comes in is that this is a place of safety," Stephanie Karr, the center's executive director, said. "But clients of ours and others have called our hotline saying I came forward, you have been helping me and I saw what happened and I am now afraid. What do I do? I am scared about being picked up."

Cesar Campa, community relations director with the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, said regardless of criminal history or not, everyone is allowed into the shelter to help better lives.

"Not everyone who comes into the shelter is going to come in with a clear history," Campa said. "So what is most important to us, is how much danger they're in so we can provide that support for them. We have staff on hand that is trained to provide the safety for everyone at the shelter."

Campa and Karr said prior crimes have nothing to do with protecting victims of abuse, and they will continue to help those in need of help.



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