The man pictured above did a very, very scary thing. This man pictured above did the right thing.
And for calling 911 while a police officer sexually assaulted his girlfriend during a traffic stop, Abel Moreno was arrested. His girlfriend was arrested, too. Then, things got even worse.
Several things then happened. Five other women came forward to allege that the officer, identified as Marcus Jackson, now 26, had tried to molest them, too. Moreno was released after investigators debunked the resisting arrest charge. So was his girlfriend.
Jackson was fired and faces 11 counts of sexual battery, extortion and interfering with emergency communication. Police Chief Rodney Monroe admitted that Jackson should never have been hired in the first place because of previous charges related to a restraining order filed by an ex-girlfriend. The local 911 system is under review because Moreno’s call wasn’t acted upon.
And Abel Moreno now has a six-month deadline to show why he shouldn’t be deported, even though police acknowledge that his 911 call was crucial to their uncovering a dirty cop, and even though they agree that he shouldn’t have been arrested.
Calling police to report the crime of another police officer has to be absolutely terrifying. Doing it because that police officer is currently in the process of sexually assaulting your girlfriend, something you are powerless to stop, has to be even more terrifying. Feeling so helpless that you have nowhere else to turn for assistance other than to the same people who are currently harming a person you love has to be among the most terrifying things I can imagine. Calling the police at all, as an undocumented immigrant, has to be terrifying, period. And doing all of this as you are being threatened with arrest by the man sexually assaulting your girlfriend makes it all the more terrifying still.
Abel Moreno showed immense bravery, the kind of courage that most people do not have. His actions helped other victims feel as though they could come forward and speak of what was done to them. His actions undoubtedly prevented countless other women from being similarly assaulted by someone in a position of power. Because of him, this officer will not be able to traumatize more women under the banner of state authority.
And as thanks for that, for being one of the better residents that U.S. society could hope for, we’ve decided that he’s not worthy of being on “our” land anymore.
This case is about several things, chief among them being how we treat the crime of sexual assault, and how we treat other human beings as worthy of rights and decency on the basis of their documentation rather than on their personhood.
Moreno has been the victim of several travesties at the hands of government. While his girlfriend was the one who was actually asasulted and thus bears the vast majority of the resulting trauma herself, the secondary trauma of watching another person, especially one who you deeply care about, be sexually assaulted is also very real and not to be dismissed. While the impact that the assault undoubtedly had on Moreno is not the reason that the assault was wrong, it is one of the outcomes of it. After Moreno’s girlfriend faced the trauma of being sexually assaulted and Moreno faced the trauma of watching it happen, both then were subjected to false arrest by the assailant. And now, Moreno must undergo further victimization at the hands of a government that sees fit to deport him (and his girlfriend faces the secondary victimization of watching it happen while she deals with her own trauma from the assault).
This case is about how we treat sexual assault because Moreno’s girlfriend never should have been assaulted, and Moreno never should have had to call for help at all. As has been admitted, Marcus Jackson should have never been admitted to the police force, due to a history of giving women reason to fear him. It’s about how we treat sexual assault because most who are victims of sexual assault are too afraid to report it. It’s about how we treat sexual assault because fear of police and the (repeatedly proven to be!) reasonable belief that police officers will usually stand by each other before standing by justice means that police officers feel free to both commit sexual assault with impunity and use their state power as a means to hiding their crimes. It’s about how we treat sexual assault because apparently not even 911 operators can be expected to give a shit when such an assault is reported.
And this case is about how we decide human worth based on the status of one’s paperwork, because only under a system that is racist, xenophobic, classist, and punitive would we treat any peacefully living human being this way, let alone Moreno specifically. Moreno is far from alone, and the fact that he and countless others have been placed in this situation is the result of a choice.
That’s because the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail where Moreno was held, is one of 67 local law enforcement agencies in 24 states that have signed up under Section 287(g) of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows some local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws during the course of their normal duties. While he was still in jail, Moreno was found to have been in the United States illegally for the past six years, working at a restaurant so he could send money back home to his mother and his five brothers and sisters in Acapulco.
A judge granted Moreno a six-month deferment on his deportation because he is a witness in the criminal investigation. But that reprieve runs out in November.
Moreno’s attorney, Rob Heroy, said he was confident Moreno would eventually be granted a so-called U visa, which allows illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses in criminal investigations to stay in the country for up to four years. But only 10,000 such visas are available in any year, and while that process works its way through the system, Moreno remains in limbo.
“Now I’m unemployed,” Moreno said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. “I don’t have any money, not even for rent, not even for my phone — anything. … The truth is I’m scared.”
The United States has chosen to devalue human beings who do not have the paperwork that we would like them to have. The United States has chosen to devalue those people while purposefully making that paperwork very difficult and expensive to obtain, in order to make that devaluation easier. That devaluation is specifically tied to racism, xenophobia, and classism directed at Latin@s, who make up a large portion of those punished under these laws. The devaluation is so extreme that we’re now expected to refer to such people — not to their actions, but to their selves — as being “illegal.”
And Moreno, not just despite his good deed but because of it — and no, I do not find it a coincidence that said deed fought and exposed kyriarchal power — has been made a victim of these choices. Hands are not tied here, an active choice to treat Moreno this way was made. And the choice was made on the basis of his skin color, his country of origin, his primary language, and his lack of official paperwork declaring that he has the right to exist in a particular location.
I wish Moreno personally all the best in his ordeal, and sincerely hope that he has the most positive outcome possible — but it’s important to remember that this is not an individual problem but a problem of systemic oppression and devaluation of marginalized people. That said, if you have information on how we can provide support (particularly financial) to Moreno specifically, please do let us know.