The city of El Paso has been confronted with a largely unprecedented case, drawing on the issues of domestic violence and illegal immigration. In October 2016, a woman identified in court documents as Irvin Gonzalez filed a police report alleging domestic violence on the part of her boyfriend, Mario Alberto De Avila. Different incidents gave rise to a total of three police reports, with the last incident allegedly involving a weapon. Judge Joe Gonzalez (no relation) granted a protective order for the woman on account of these domestic violence claims. County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal characterized the incidents as "serious abuse." Irvin Gonzalez is identified as a man in federal documents, however, she is transgender and personally identifies as a woman.
The case became a veritable legal quagmire when Avila tipped off authorities that Gonzalez was in the country illegally. He informed them when she would be at a court hearing to obtain the aforementioned protective order against him. According to court documents, immigration agents arrested Gonzalez outside the courthouse after the hearing and she was taken to the ICE Detention Center. However, surveillance video contradicts this version of events, with agents seen arresting Gonzalez inside the courthouse.
When questioned as to her US citizenship, Gonzalez admitted to being in the country illegally. She has six prior deportations on her record, as well as convictions for larceny, false imprisonment, assault, a probation violation, and even domestic violence. None of these convictions were in El Paso county. Gonzalez is currently awaiting her seventh deportation.
Gonzalez's in-court arrest has raised concerns among county officials, who fear that the overt nature of the arrest might discourage other victims of domestic violence from coming forward because they are in the country illegally. Officials have stated that the nature of Gonzalez's arrest was an isolated incident, not to be repeated. Prior to detainment, Gonzalez was residing at the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence.
The case comes at a time of heightened concern over the legal response to illegal immigration, with general process and conduct of agents and officials subject to a possible overhaul under the Trump administration. This case raises new questions surrounding the issue. The intersection of illegal immigration with an ongoing issue like domestic violence presents a baffling legal conundrum. How does the state go about prosecuting claims of domestic violence when the victim may have illegally entered the country from which they seek protection and justice? Ultimately, the greatest concern is that fear of deportation will deter victims from reporting legitimate claims.
65th District Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued Gonzalez's protective order, stated that ICE agents are assisting abusers if they act on a tip received from one. Bernal says she seeks to reassure all victims of domestic violence that they can and should bring a claim forward, regardless of whether or not they are documented. Justice for the accused is of equal importance as justice for the alleged victims; all claims of domestic violence should be subject to sufficient investigation as to their legitimacy, to ensure no one is falsely accused. Good legal representation for both parties is of paramount importance.
Domestic violence claims can be extremely complex, with issues like immigration further complicating how they may be tried. No matter the circumstances, all parties involved are entitled to a strong, competently constructed defense. If you have received domestic violence charges in the Seattle area, contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi immediately to begin a free consultation of your case.