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Experts: Trump immigration crackdown deterring undocumented immigrants from testifying in cases

Experts: Trump immigration crackdown deterring undocumented immigrants from testifying in cases
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The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration is deterring some women from testifying in incidents of domestic abuse and discouraging immigrants in the country illegally from appearing in court, experts told NBC News.

The experts told the network that fears of being arrested by immigration officials is deterring undocumented immigrants from appearing at courthouses, where they could be apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence defended the practice in an interview with NBC News, saying that if a person “is here illegally in this country, they're always subject to arrest for that criminal violation.”

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"We have compassion to all victims of crimes that are here illegally. We have compassion toward victims of crimes that are United States citizens that have crimes committed against them by illegal aliens,” Albence said. “That said, we have a job to do."

Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson told the network that she has had to drop 30 cases of domestic violence since President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE’s inauguration last year because she said the victims were afraid of being apprehended by immigration officials in court.

Stricter immigration laws have been at the forefront of the Trump administration's priorities since the president took office last year.

"It means that abusers are going without consequences," Bronson said. "It means that abusers are beginning to feel that they are immune from prosecution, and it's become, unfortunately, a tool to further victimize women who are the victims of domestic violence."

ICE officials are not allowed to make arrests at schools, hospitals or houses of worship without prior approval or "exigent circumstances.” Courthouses are not included in the policy, but some law enforcement officials are asking for the locations to be added.

The officials — including three district attorneys in New York and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey — argue that being able to make arrests at courthouses interferes with the prosecution of other crimes.

Albence, the ICE official, disputed those claims.

"This whole notion that, you know, us arresting people at the courthouse is going to interfere with victims or witnesses — it's not," Albence told NBC News. "We are there targeting individuals who we know are here in the country illegally, have been charged or committed or convicted of a criminal violation, and we are taking enforcement action against those individuals."