The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy allows for undocumented parents and kids to be separated. And in the midst, children of undocumented immigrants are subject to intimidation by law enforcement, and in this case, sexual abuse.
Jose Nunez, a sheriff’s deputy, is being held on a felony charge of “super aggravated sexual assault” for violating a 4-year-old girl, who is related to him. Authorities said he threatened the child’s mother, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, with deportation if she reported him.
At a news conference on Monday, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Nunez, 47, a detention officer with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in South Texas, was off-duty when he was arrested on Sunday after the mother took her daughter to a local fire station for help.
“The details of the case are, quite frankly, heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting and infuriating all at the same time,” Salazar said.
“As we understand it, the suspect had physical contact with the girl, touched her genital area, which caused pain,” said Salazar. “At least some indication of minor injury.”
He said Nunez, who’s been with the department for 10 years, is currently undergoing an interrogation and has been placed on administrative leave.
“The little girl is safe and we’re continuing to process the case,” he said.
Salazar also said there’s reason to believe the abuse goes back for several months, “possibly a couple of years.”
“We also have reason to believe there may have been other children that were related to this suspect and had contact with him,” Salazar added. “So we’re asking if anybody has any reason to believe their child may have been affected by this, please give us a call.”
He pointed out that undocumented immigrants are often subject to being victimized.
“Now that’s something in law enforcement we’ve been saying for some time, that that’s always a concern in the undocumented community,” Salazar said. “I would urge anybody that may be undocumented that is a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime to please come forward to report it.”
He said investigators are working to ensure the mother is given protected status pending the outcome of the case.
Immigrant rights groups say Texas’ Senate Bill 4, passed last year, “puts immigrants in the cross hairs of law enforcement” and has created an atmosphere where they are afraid to report crimes to authorities.