Democratic Congressman Says He’s ‘Disturbed’ By ICE Arrest Of Illegal Alien With Multiple Theft Convictions

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Democratic Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said he was “disturbed” to hear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested a criminal illegal alien, arguing that it shouldn’t have taken place in a courthouse.

ICE arrested Ericka Gonzalez Zuniga — a Mexican national living in the U.S. illegally — at a local courthouse in Hidalgo County, Texas, on Thursday. While acknowledging the apprehension was legal, Gonzalez released a statement the following day condemning the arrest, and declaring he would take the “appropriate protocols” to prevent such an arrest again.

“I was disturbed to learn that ICE arrested Ericka Gonzalez Zuniga at the Hidalgo County Courthouse yesterday,” Gonzalez said in a public statement Friday, and first reported by CBS 4 News. “While lawful, this lacked forethought, incites fear in our community, and may have a detrimental impact on our local justice system.”

He added: “I will be engaging with local leaders and ICE to learn more about this situation and develop appropriate protocols that prevent this from happening again.”

However, Gonzalez Zuniga’s trouble with the law was not confined to just her immigration status. The 42-year-old Mexican national touts a rap sheet that spans nearly a decade, according to a statement release by ICE. She had been convicted of theft on multiple occasions between 2003 and 2010, and was ordered by an immigration judge to be deported from the country in January 2005.

U.S. congressmen Vicente Gonzalez speaks with a Mexican veteran who have been deported from the United States, during a meeting outside the Deported Veterans Support House, in Tijuana

U.S. congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (R) speaks with a Mexican veteran who have been deported from the United States, during a meeting outside the Deported Veterans Support House, in Tijuana, Mexico June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

Federal immigration authorities added that Gonzalez Zuniga made multiple illegal entries into the U.S. — a felony under federal law.

The Democratic congressman, for his part, was repeating a criticism made by many immigrant-rights activists over the years. Courthouses, they argue, should be considered “sensitive locations,” or off-limits to federal immigration authorities because such arrests might lead to the illegal immigrant community becoming fearful of approaching law enforcement altogether.

ICE has long pushed back on this argument, pointing out that arrests in these locations are a safe alternative to apprehensions out of the field — where individuals might be armed, and others might be put at risk. Courthouses, where individuals enter through a metal detector and are surrounded by law enforcement, ensure safety for everyone involved. (RELATED: Trump Administration Unveils Expansion Of Travel Ban)

“Under ICE policy, courthouses are not considered sensitive locations,” read a statement by ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda. “In such instances where officers seek to conduct an arrest at a courthouse, every effort is made to take the person into custody in a secure area, out of public view, for the safety of those involved.”

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