Domestic violence victims refuse to testify out of deportation fears, officials say

At least four domestic violence victims have refused to testify.

ByABC News
February 24, 2017, 9:38 PM

— -- Multiple victims of domestic assault -- who are living in the U.S. without proper documentation -- are refusing to testify in a Denver courthouse out of fears of being deported, according to city officials.

Since President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration was issued on Jan. 25, at least four victims of domestic violence are unwilling to testify in court, said Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson on Friday to ABC News affiliate KMGH.

Since the victims refuse to testify, "four alleged perpetrators of domestic violence" are "back out on the streets without any kind of punishment."

"That concerns us greatly as we try keep Denver a safe and welcoming community," Bronson said.

On Thursday, the Meyer Law Office, in Denver posted video of an immigration attorney questioning ICE agents who were at the city's courthouse. In the video, agents admit that they are looking to arrest someone but refuse to elaborate beyond that. At least one agent admitted that he did not have any arrest warrants, but he would not confirm or deny whether he was working undercover.

While the actions of the ICE agents are not illegal, the law firm alleges that ICE is using "bully" tactics and destroying the trust between immigrants and law enforcement.

"We released this video to provide concrete evidence of ICE attempting to bully local governments into complying with Donald Trump's immigration enforcement regime," said Attorney Hans Meyer, principal of the Meyer Law Office. "This video demonstrates that ICE is not even bothering to obtain warrants, unlike any other law enforcement jurisdiction, and is completely opaque about their operations with court personnel and the City of Denver.”

Bronson echoed that sentiment, saying that if the current federal stand on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. trickles down to the local level, she believes victims will no longer come forward.

“We need to maintain the distinction between the federal role and the local role and if we do not do that and that line becomes blurred, victims are no longer willing to come forward, witnesses are no longer to come forward, and that trust that’s so important to the law enforcement relationship erodes,” Bronson said.

In a statement, ICE disputed the law firm's allegations and said the agents were in possession of a "signed administrative arrest warrant at the time of arrest."

The federal agency said officers and agents "do not conduct undercover operations in court rooms" and that ICE personnel are authorized to wear "street clothes" while working.The agency also reiterated that "ICE policy allows officers to enter public buildings, including courthouses, to conduct targeted arrests of individuals."

The City of Denver said it is "aware" that ICE agents "enter city buildings and courthouses in furtherance of their federal immigration enforcement efforts," adding that the ICE representatives "cannot be barred from entering" public buildings.