ICE Detained Charlotte Mother, Son At Courthouse

CHARLOTTE, NC– Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested a woman and her teenage son while they were inside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in connection to a domestic violence case.

Now, activists are calling on the court to denounce ICE to protect immigrants facing violence.

The woman ICE arrested was in Marshall Park Friday with dozens of supporters. She is afraid but wants to warn others that ICE will arrest undocumented immigrants in the courthouse, even if you’re a victim.

Maria Cometa-Velasco spoke through a translator. “I was filled with so much panic, fear, confusion, and I didn’t understand what was happening at that moment,” she said.

The mother of two came to the U.S. from Colombia in January 2016, according to ICE. Her attorney says she came here on a fiance visa but never married her abusive fiance, making her an undocumented immigrant.

Two years later, a judge gave her a protective order against him for abusing her 16-year-old son.

Court documents show that man took out a cross claim, accusing her of stealing her baby’s crib and belongings when she went to a domestic violence shelter.

ICE arrested Cometa-Velasco and her son in the lobby when they showed up for court on
July 9.

“Being handcuffed like a criminal with my son was one of the most humiliating and embarrassing situations I’ve ever endured,” said the translator speaking for the mother.

ICE left her two-year-old son in the courthouse daycare.

She says ICE booked her and her son, put them in a cell, gave them a court date and released them hours later.

“No one in our community is safe if people can go to court and avail themselves of our justice system,” said her attorney, Becca O’Neill.

O’Neill stood with Safe Alliance’s CEO, Karen Parker, Friday, saying ICE should stay away from the courthouse.

“Abusers often attempt to manipulate immigration officials and the court using these systems as a tool to further control and abuse their victim,” said Parker.

WCCB Charlotte asked a courthouse spokesperson about concerns that ICE is arresting people there. They said no comment.

We asked an ICE spokesperson why they arrested the son, who is a victim and has never been accused of a crime.

ICE said no comment on a juvenile.

ICE said it arrested the mother because she came up in the system as a defendant in that misdemeanor larceny case.

It scheduled her court date for January. A judge will decide if she and her son will be deported.

Attorneys say the District Attorneys Office planned to dismiss the case against Cometa- Velasco this week. WCCB Charlotte was still waiting for confirmation on that by publication time Friday evening.

WCCB Charlotte asked CMPD to comment about fears some face when reporting crimes due to ICE.

The department wrote, “It is not the job of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to determine the citizenship of our citizens.  We are here to serve and protect the public, regardless of what country is on the front of your passport.  We encourage all citizens to call 911 to report incidents if they are a victim of a crime.”