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Deportation Fears Are Undermining Criminal Prosecutions

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

The Trump administration has brought a new, hard-line approach to immigration enforcement, looking to ramp up detentions and deportations. Now, deportation fears are starting to impact some criminal proceedings, as undocumented immigrants take a more cautious approach to law enforcement.

In Denver, Colorado, for example, several cases have been dropped after witnesses, concerned about their immigration status, skipped court.

Four Domestic Violence Cases Dropped in Denver

Kristin Bronson, Denver City Attorney, says that fear of immigration agents has led her office to drop four domestic violence cases since January, according to KUSA. Victims apparently feared that they would be met by immigration officers when they arrived at court.

"The level of anxiety in the community is very new," according to Bronson, who is looking to reassure immigrants in Denver. "Our police department doesn't care whether people are documented or undocumented," she said. "If they are living here or traveling through Denver, they are entitled to the protection from our police department and sheriff's department."

"We want to encourage people to continue to report crimes," she explained.

ICE Arrests Cause Chilling Effect

The news that Denver prosecutors are dropping cases due to court-shy victims and witnesses comes just days after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested an undocumented woman at a courthouse in El Paso County, Texas.

The woman, a Mexican citizen living in Texas, had been taken to the court by a victim's advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. She was seeking a protective order against an abusive boyfriend. But while at the courthouse, she was arrested by ICE.

According to ICE officials, the woman had a long history of deportations and arrests. They were staking out the court, an affidavit explains, "in attempts of seeing" her.

Still, such an arrest is "really unprecedented," according to El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, who represents domestic violence victims and prosecutes criminal cases in the county. "It really was a stunning event," she told the Washington Post. "It has an incredibly chilling effect for all undocumented victims of any crime in our community."

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