A Texas sheriff deputy has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old relative and threatening to deport her undocumented mother if she reported him.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar says 47-year-old Jose Nunez was arrested Sunday on a warrant for super aggravated sexual assault, pending formal charges. He added that Nunez has "familial ties" to the woman and her daughter, although their exact relationship is unclear. Authorities believe the assaults have been taking place for several months or potentially for as long as two years, Salazar said.
Salazar told reporters that "another heartbreaking aspect" of the case was that Nunez used the Guatemalan mother's undocumented immigrant status "to his advantage" to keep her quiet.
He said the mother made a decision to go to a local fire station to report the abuse. If convicted, the charge Nunez faces carries a minimum sentence of 25 years.
He was arrested early on Sunday morning after the girl's mother sought help from a local fire department. "That's always a concern in the undocumented community".
Mr Nunez has been charged with super aggravated sexual assault, a charge applied when the victim is under six years old.
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He said that his department is "filling out paperwork" to ensure that the mother is treated as a witness, and given "protected status pending the outcome of this case", which would allow her to remain in the US. "Certainly what was appealing was the vulnerability of that community because they are less apt to report things". "And that's what's going to happen in this case", said Salazar.
"(We ask) victims of a crime or a witness to a crime to please come forward and report it.
While the law's supporters say it is created to protect people by enforcing laws already in place, it also allows local authorities to investigate whether a person is legally in the United States.
The identities of the child and her mother were not released by law enforcement.
A Texas sheriff's deputy is accused of a crime so heinous that his boss said it's "disgusting and infuriating". That extends to undocumented immigrants as well.