EL PASO, Texas – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and other local leaders denounced recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities during separate press conferences on Friday.
O’Rourke was joined by El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal.
The three answered questions after meeting with officials from ICE about a recent incident at the El Paso County Courthouse.
As NewsChannel 9 previously reported, on Feb. 9, federal agents detained a woman at the county courthouse after she filed a protective order against her alleged abuser.
The woman has since been identified as Irvin Gonzalez. She’s also considered transgender and has been deported six times, according to court documents.
She’s also been convicted of larceny, domestic violence and assault.
O’Rourke said everyone should be able to report domestic violence regardless of their immigration status or criminal history.
Instead, he stressed the importance of victims of crime needing to feel safe inside a courthouse.
O’Rourke told NewsChannel 9, he was concerned about two things: the criminal complaint filed by ICE agents and keeping the courthouse a safe place.
According to court documents filed by federal agents, Gonzales was detained outside the courthouse.
However, surveillance video shows agents Gonzalez being detained inside the courthouse on the 10th floor after filing a protection order against her alleged abuse.
O’Rourke said he also asked about the Violence Against Women Act which prevents alleged abusers tipping off law enforcement officers about a victim’s immigration status.
“I was not able to get answer on either of those issues,” said O’Rourke during Friday’s press conference.
“I did ask for a specific answer on both,” he added. “And I feel that it is in my federal jurisdiction get that information and share with the public.”
Meanwhile, officials with the Border Network for Human Rights responded to so-called “wrongful ICE enforcement activities” in the Borderland.
Executive Director Fernando Garcia said the event was held to inform people scared of being deported what their rights were.
Garcia said, “This is an effort to inform our community of their rights. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have documents or not, you have legal rights.”
He added, “Nobody can enter your house without a legal order. If you’re questioned, you have the right to remain silent.”
ICE officials confirmed raids happened in southern New Mexico earlier this week but said details were limited because it was an ongoing operation.
The agency spokesperson, Leticia Zamarripa said, “ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending deportable foreign nationals. All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day. The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis.”
O’Rourke briefly mentioned the raids but was quick to point out that the Obama administration deported more undocumented immigrants than any other previous administration.
Still, officials from both press conferences encouraged victims of domestic violence to report crime when it happens regardless of their immigration status.