The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is very concerned about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) arrest of a victim of domestic violence in El Paso, Texas last week.

In what should have been a place of refuge from abuse, the victim was the subject of yet another assault, this time on her freedom.As Ms. Gonzalez was seeking a protection order, she was detained in the courthouse by ICE agents in preparation for deportation.

Her abuser assaulted her yet again, this time by alerting the ICE. Threat of deportation is a common abuse tactic; we have seen in this case why it is so effective. This tactic is also detrimental to the communities in which they reside. When victims and survivors are unable to reach out to law enforcement to report abuse, violent perpetrators are allowed to go free.

NCADV has long been concerned that victims and survivors will not access services and legal protections, such as protection orders, because they fear arrest and deportation.

“If a victim, no matter her standing in this nation, cannot feel safe in a courtroom, we must begin to look even harder at our systems and responses to victims of domestic violence. It is imperative that ICE and other federal agencies understand the dynamics of domestic violence and the tactics of abusers who use these very strategies to continue the violence,” says Ruth Glenn, NCADV Executive Director.

As a nation, we must be vigilant and understand that policies and actions by our federal government can be harmful to victims of domestic violence. NCADV calls on our government to critically consider the consequences of their actions, particularly for victims of domestic violence. Victims must feel they have some refuge, a place of safety in our systems. The message Ms. Gonzalez’s arrest sends is chilling — the federal government will violate the sanctity of the protective order court to aid perpetrators in their abuse. The protections for those enduring abuse and seeking safety must be strengthened, not weakened.