OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma City man is accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl whose immigrant family was living with him for the last several months.
Jose Alcides Benites, 59, was arrested after police were called to a home in the 500 block of SE 20th Street Thursday evening. He was booked into the Oklahoma County jail on a charge of lewd acts with a child after he was accused by the girl's mother, who said she saw Benites touching her daughter underneath her clothes.
"She was in the house they were staying at at the time and that’s when she peered through a crack in the door, and unfortunately saw a man inappropriately touching her daughter," said Oklahoma City Police Officer Megan Morgan.
According to police reports, the mother told police she "knocked on the door" before entering and "saw Benites jerk his hand back in a quick motion and acted as if nothing was going on" according to the report.
However the woman, who is from Honduras, did not immediately contact police, but first called her pastor who then called police. The woman told police "she was worried about uncertainty of her immigration status" and "was fearful contacting the police would get her and her two children in trouble."
Police are not commenting on the immigration status of the family. According to the report, the woman and her two children were attempting to make their way to New York City to meet up with family. But when the children's mother lost contact, she replied to an online advertisement by Benites, "stating he was willing to assist immigrants and their children with a place to live" and had been living with Benites for about four months.
"Overall, I would say the community feels a lot of fear. Particularly because of how unhumanitarian the treatment is for the undocumented and the immigrant community as well," said Cynthia Garcia, the deportation defense director with Dream Action Oklahoma, an immigrant rights advocacy group.
From an undocumented immigrant's perspective, Garcia said immigrants and their children are susceptible to exploitation, and families often view contacting police when crimes occur as a risky venture. Especially at a time in the country where immigrants and their children so vulnerable.
"I think, regardless of her legal status, she's here protecting her kids, so as much as that puts her in a pickle, she has to speak up for that," Garcia said of the case. "And the only way she`s going to be able to do that is she doesn't allow someone to take advantage of that situation."