Undocumented immigrant detained outside mediation in South Austin

An Austin attorney is speaking out after her client was taken into custody by immigration officials following mediation.

Daniella Lyttle says her client, Javier Alexander Valencia or "Alex" was taken into custody after mediation at a private South Austin legal practice Wednesday.

Valencia, 34, was in mediation because he and his ex-wife are in a custody battle over their 3-year-old daughter. Valencia lives in Seattle and has been in Texas for visitation this summer. 

“It’s not unusual somebody who's here undocumented to potentially be arrested," Lyttle said. "That’s not, that’s not the part that’s unusual. What’s unusual that immigration went to a mediation site which is part of a state case, and part of the litigation process."

Iris Alvizou, an immigration and family law attorney not affiliated with Valencia's case, says ICE can arrest someone outside of mediation but she believes it is an isolated incident. She doesn't want it to evoke fear in the immigrant community. 

“There is a due process under the U.S. Constitution and people need to know that if they’re arrested, or approached by an immigration officer, they have the right to speak to an attorney, and they have the right not to sign anything until they have an attorney to review it, or talk to them,” Alvizou said. 

“Due process” is what Lyttle says she feels her client was denied. 

Valencia is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He was convicted of a misdemeanor in Washington state nearly a decade ago. Lyttle says Wednesday he was taken to the J.J. Pickle Federal Building before he was transferred to the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall.

Lyttle says she has requested to see Valencia, and Valencia requested to see her but their requests have been denied. Valencia was allowed to call Lyttle, but she feels that was not sufficient. 

“You’re not allowing him access to legal representation at the most critical moment, where he could make a mistake and not understand what’s happening," Lyttle said.

Lyttle says she is also concerned that citizenship can be weaponized in custody battles. 

Valencia is engaged to a legal resident, who could petition for his citizenship once the pair are married.