EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Police officers arrested a Guatemalan national who allegedly attempted to sexually assault a fellow Guatemalan housed by the Annunciation House at a local motel.
Annunciation House is a shelter that works with immigration authorities to house asylum seekers while they wait for their court date. When the shelter is at capacity, it rents motel rooms to house migrants.
Police said the suspect was identified by U.S. Border Patrol officials as 23-year-old Francisco Tojin Maldonado. The suspect's six-year-old son was turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said Ruben Garcia, the executive director of The Annunciation House.
Maldonado allegedly entered a room at the Budget Inn Motel, located at 5634 Paisano, and attempted to sexually assault a woman at about 9:14 a.m. on January 8, 2018, police said.
The investigation revealed the victim, lodged by the Annunciation House shelter at the motel, was bathing her child when she saw Maldonado, a person unknown to her, in the room. The woman said the door to her room had been left unlocked so that volunteer workers could freely walk in and out of the room.
Maldonado was told to leave, but he allegedly approached the victim and groped her under her clothing and pressed himself onto her in a lewd manner, police said. As volunteers responded to the victim’s screams, Maldonado allegedly ran away from the room.
Police officers were then directed to Maldonado's room, where he was lodged along with his son. Police said Maldonado was uncooperative with the officers and refused to identify himself.
After he was identified by Border Patrol, Maldonado was booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility on a $30,000 bond. Police said Maldonado was charged with Burglary of Habitation because he broke into the room with the intent to commit a felony.
Garcia said the victim has left El Paso and has been reunited with family elsewhere in the U.S.
Garcia also said the allegations against Maldonado should in no way reflect on the thousands of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. "If a doctor or teacher is arrested for some kind of inappropriate behavior, does that mean that all doctors and teachers are guilty of similar behavior," asked Garcia.
In between 150,000 to 200,000 refugees have been released to Annunciation House over the past five years. Garcia said Tuesday's incident was the first time the shelter has ever had to call the police to report an attempted sexual assault.
When asked how Annunciation House would "guarantee" the safety of migrants moving forward, Garcia said they do everything in their power to keep migrants safe, but he could not guarantee an incident like this would not happen again.
"What happened yesterday is beyond tragic," Garcia said.
Also Wednesday, the Annunciation House announced the surge of Central American migrants being released by ICE is over. "As of right now, the surge has come to an end," Garcia said.
When Annunciation House experiences a surge in migrants, it receives in between 300 to 350 migrants per day from ICE, Garcia said. Last week, the figure decreased to about 200 migrants per day. This week, it is below 100 per day.
Annunciation House is removing some migrants from local motels and is also "standing down" multiple hospitality sites, Garcia said.