HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - An undocumented immigrant living in Huntsville made a 911 call with life-altering consequences.
Victoriano Cordoba Hernandez’s legal team told WAFF 48 News that an immigration judge granted Hernandez a “voluntary departure," on Friday. The ruling means federal agents will transport Hernandez to the southern border on or before Aug. 2.
It’s the end result to a process that began on April 8, 2019, when Hernandez called Huntsville police to report a robbery by the man he was romantically involved with.
Officers arrived, but the Huntsville Police Department and Hernandez’s defense attorney Michael Tewalt have conflicting stories on the events that subsequently took place.
The points of conflict:
- The nature of the call: Tewalt said Hernandez was in an abusive relationship with another man, and had called Huntsville Police when the man had taken Hernandez’s personal belongings. Huntsville Police said they found the belongings on Hernandez’s person, and the call was an attempt to get back at the partner for a break-up or mistreatment of some kind.
- The nature of the dialogue: Tewalt said there was a breakdown in communication between Hernandez and the responding officers, potentially the result of a language barrier. The department said an officer fluent in Spanish responded to the scene.
- The presence of a confession: The department said that Hernandez confessed to lying about the robbery at the scene. Tewalt said he is aware of no such confession.
The universally understood end result is that officers arrested Hernandez for falsifying a police report. He was subsequently moved into ICE custody in Louisiana as his immigration proceedings played out.
Tewalt said city prosecution ended up dropping the charge. There are no court records of Hernandez facing any charges (falsifying a police report or otherwise) in the state of Alabama.
Tewalt said Hernandez bears no ill will toward the Huntsville Police Department, but arrests similar to his clients’ have a chilling effect between the community and law enforcement.
“They’re afraid there will be a language barrier and they could ultimately get into trouble because they called the police for whatever legitimate reason they may have had,” he said.
Huntsville Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Michael Johnson said the department does not coordinate with ICE for detentions, but will do its job.
“We’re going to investigate every call to its fullest, and that means arresting someone for a misdemeanor, that’s what he’ll go to jail for,” he said.
Johnson said the department does have bilingual officers and other resources to bridge the language gap with the Hispanic community.
“We have the hundreds of calls a month in these communities, especially in the Hispanic community, we have officers that speak Spanish, that deal with situations where there is no arrest," he said.
"There is that contact, there is no arrest, and everyone goes on their way. So we do feel like we have the trust of that community.”
Tewalt said Huntsville Police did handle the case well after the initial arrest and said this should not deter people from calling when in need.
“If you are truly the victim of something, to go ahead and call law enforcement. Do what you need to do. The police are there to serve and protect all people, regardless of where they came from. This is just a bad circumstances of events that led to [Hernandez] being removed from the country," he said.