Activist: Criminals prey on immigrants' fear of law enforcement - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Activist: Criminals prey on immigrants' fear of law enforcement

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

ALBERTVILLE, AL (WAFF) - One working theory is that Maria Gurrolla may have been targeted because of her Hispanic heritage and limited English.

Investigators said Tammy Silas was able to get Gurrolla to open the door to her home because she identified herself as an immigration agent. 

WAFF 48 News spoke to a community activist about crimes targeting immigrants.

She said that these types of crimes are not uncommon, in fact, they've happened right here in North Alabama.

"She said she was an immigration officer and she was there to arrest her," Gurrolla said through a translator.

Gurrolla was explaining what happened after she opened her door to 39-year-old Tammy Silas on Tuesday.

Once inside the home, federal investigators said Silas brutally attacked Gurrolla and abducted her then four-day-old son, Yair Carillo.

"To me, from the way I view it, she was singled out. It was horrible, I think she was very brave and again I was not surprised," said Aylene Sepulveda, an Albertville-based advocate for the Hispanic community.

She said criminals often prey on immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, because they believe they'll be too afraid to report the crimes.

She said just a few months ago, similar incidents were reported here.

"It was in Kilpatrick, some gentlemen presented themselves as officials, immigration officials and solicited money from people at trailers," Sepulveda said.

She's trying to get the word out to the Hispanic community to know what to look for the next time someone claiming to be law enforcement approaches their door.

"They present a badge or a search warrant, that they properly identify themselves. So we're trying to get people in our community informed and prepared so that victimization doesn't happen here," Sepulveda said.  

To help ensure more people don't get victimized, the North Alabama Hispanic Committee will be holding a "Know Your Rights" seminar for the Hispanic community at Luce de los Naciones Christian Center on Highway 431 in Albertville. It's scheduled for October 24th at 3 p.m.

©2009 WAFF. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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