Undocumented Mother of Murdered Child Afraid to Go to Police for Fear of Deportation

Twenty years ago, a horrific and mysterious murder made national headlines as law enforcement pooled resources to find information about a four-year-old found dead in a cooler. The trail eventually went cold and the police named the case “Baby Hope” and paid for a headstone in a cemetery plot. 22 years and an anonymous tip later, police found the child’s parents were undocumented immigrants and were too afraid to come to law enforcement for help.

Immigrant did not report missing child to police

An astonishing fact about the case was that no parents came forward claiming a missing child. No leads were found in the case, but through DNA verification, police were able to identify the baby as Anjelica Castillo. Police then traced her mother, who said she was too afraid to report her daughter’s disappearance because she is an undocumented immigrant. The case finally ended with a confession from Angelica’s cousin, Conrado Juarez, who had sexually assaulted and smothered her to death.

Margarita Castillo, Angelica’s mother, claims she thought her daughter was living with relatives after she split with her husband. Reporters asked the main question of why she hadn’t reported the disappearance earlier. Castillo told the New York Daily News, “I didn’t speak English. You feel dumb going to the police station and asking for a translator. I was intimidated. It’s hard to explain. I felt ignorant about the process.”

Undocumented immigrants mistrust police

Castillo’s fear of deportation is prevalent among the undocumented immigrant community. Immigrants feel that they cannot trust law enforcement and that they will be deported if they ask for help. Between the years 2010 and 2012, over 200,000 undocumented parents were deported leaving behind their U.S. citizen children. A recent survey also found that 70 percent of undocumented Latinos were less likely to contact police officers if they are crime victims.

Recent laws are not helping immigrants come to police with problems either. Certain states permit law enforcement to inquire about immigration status and there was a case where a man who came to report a crime was deported later on. Luckily some state legislatures are doing something to combat this view of police. The Trust Act prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining non-serious offenders on behalf of federal immigration authorities. Also Congress is being encouraged to reauthorize VAWA, which allows undocumented immigrants to seek legal relief when their abusers exploit their immigration status as leverage to stay. The most important concept to get through to immigrants is that they can get help from legal officials whether or not they have legal status.

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