After an illegal border crossing took a bad turn in Mountain View on Sunday -- devolving into an extortion and kidnapping case -- several Voice readers expressed confusion over how the ordeal was handled by local authorities.
The accused kidnapper, 26-year-old Nicandro Aparicio of Alabaster, Ariz., was arrested, but his victim -- a 32-year-old woman whom police knew to be an illegal immigrant -- was not.
"The kidnapper was wrong but so was (the victim)," Dale, a Voice reader, wrote on the Town Square online forum. "Why does he go to jail and she gets to be with her family? She should (return) to Mexico and make her way here legally."
Another reader, Steve, wanted to know why the woman was not facing immigration authorities. "Who set the policy for the police to not detain illegal aliens?" he wrote.
For Liz Wylie, public information officer for the Mountain View Police Department, the answer to the questions came easily.
"She is a victim of a violent crime," Wylie said. As such, Mountain View police are concerned with bringing her kidnapper to justice -- and that is all. "It's not our job to enforce immigration laws."
The victim, a 32-year-old who had been living in Malin, Ore., went to visit her parents in Mexico recently. When she had trouble getting back into the U.S., some family members living in Mountain View hired a "coyote" -- or smuggler -- to bring the woman back into the country, Wylie said.
After crossing the border, she was handed off to another smuggler, who drove her north, Wylie said. She arrived in Mountain View on the afternoon of March 20, but when her family could not pay the additional $800 the smuggler demanded, he kidnapped her -- speeding away from the intersection of Elmwood and Washington streets, driving on the sidewalk to get around other vehicles.
The family called 911 at about 4:20 p.m. with a description of the vehicle -- a blue Nissan Altima with Arizona plates -- which police officers soon located traveling south on Highway 101, Wylie said.
Mountain View police and California Highway Patrol officers pulled the car over without incident and arrested Aparicio, Wylie said. He was booked into county jail where Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- ICE for short -- placed a hold on him, which will prohibit him from posting bail.
The woman had severe bruises all over her body, but it is not clear where or how she got her injuries, Wylie said. She was returned to her family and plans to apply for a visa so she may live in the country legally.
The Mountain View Police Department will cooperate with ICE if the government agency asks for help regarding the victim, Wylie said. Mountain View police always cooperate with ICE and other federal agencies when requested, she said.
"We are not a sanctuary city," Wylie said.
All the same, she added, police departments -- whether in Mountain View or elsewhere in the country -- generally don't go out of their way to get involved with immigration issues. There are many reasons for this.
For starters, Wylie said, people need to be able to trust the police and be willing to call 911 in an emergency -- just as the family of the victim did, even though they knew that the woman was living in this country illegally. They told police they were hesitant to call.
"Our job is to fight crime, and we can't have a population afraid to call us for service," Wylie explained. "We can't have people be victimized because they are afraid to contact us. If someone gets raped, we don't care if that person is here legally or not; we just want to get that rapist off the street."
On top of the desire for the community's trust, there are purely logistical and legal reasons, as well.
"The Mountain View Police Department can't deport anybody," Wylie said, noting that the power to deport lies solely in the hands of federal authorities. But even if they could, they wouldn't, because they simply don't have the time or resources.
"We don't even ask people if they are here legally," she said.