Monday, February 13, 2012

SHERIFF BACA, A YEAR AFTER THE FACT: “Dear Miramonte School Student Parents and.or Guardians:” + How fear of deportation is keeping some Miramonte parents quiet

“Please know that we will not ask about your or anyone’s immigration status, nor will any information be shared with immigration authorities”

from |

Monday, February 13 2012, 5:33 PM EST

Fear of Deportation Kept L.A. School's Parents From Reporting Sex Abuse

“Unlike the Los Angeles Police Department, which has a policy on the books intended to protect undocumented victims and witnesses, the (LA County Sheriff’s) Department has two different immigration enforcement partnerships with the federal government,” explained Leslie Berestein Rojas at KPCC’s “Multi-American.”

Including “Secure Communities” – where unlicensed ice cream vendors have been deported.



    ‘I don’t trust them’: How fear of deportation is keeping some Miramonte parents quiet

    from KPCC MultiAmerican | By Leslie Berestein Rojas |

    Photo by Grant Slater/KPCC

    February 9, 2012 | 11:17 AM :: As parents at South Los Angeles’ Miramonte Elementary School begin coming forward and taking legal action in light of the lewd-conduct charges filed against two teachers in recent days, how to convince those who don’t have legal immigration status to speak up?

    Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials have been putting the message out through the media that in spite of the department’s federal-local immigration enforcement partnerships, those who come forward to report the suspected abuse of a child won’t be questioned about status. But many parents are not going to be easy to convince.

    “That is what they say, but it’s one thing that they say it and another that they do it,” said the father of a 10-year-old female student at the school, a man named Raymundo who was reluctant to use his last name because he is undocumented. “I don’t trust them. If I had a ferocious pit bull at home, and I told you to come in, it won’t bite, what would you do?”

    Raymundo is one of several parents who, rather than go directly to the authorities, have sought legal counsel. He and other parents are among those filing personal injury lawsuits against the school district on behalf of eight students whose families believe they were abused by the teachers, both charged with committing lewd acts against children. The parents’ attorney, Jessica Dominguez, was announcing the lawsuits this morning in a press conference with immigrant advocates.

    The Miramonte case illustrates how victims of abuse, including domestic abuse, who live in the shadows are very often reluctant to come forward for fear of deportation. These victims do have rights, including to a special visa for crime victims referred to as the U-Visa, which some of the Miramonte parents are pursuing. But there are some who won’t be convinced.

    The neighborhood in which Miramonte Elementary sits is a part of South Los Angeles that has undergone demographic changes in recent decades, shifting from majority black to majority Latino. Nine-eight percent of the student body is now Latino, and more than half the students are English learners. Many of their parents are first-generation immigrants, and not all have papers.

    Dominguez said she knows of at least two families at the school who are refusing to come forward because they don’t want to be found out. Raymundo said he’s spoken to several undocumented parents who believe their children were harmed.

    “I think there are more than five or six parents of the children who don’t have documents, or even children who don’t have documents,” he said in a phone conversation. “I was desperate, I didn’t know what to do. My sister contacted the attorney. She assured us that nothing can happen to us, that we can report this. I feel a little better now.”

    Raymundo recalled how once, after his car was hit, he failed to report the accident for similar reasons.

    Gaining the trust of immigrant communities has always been a challenge for police, but perhaps more so lately. One of the chief criticisms of the federal-local immigration enforcement partnerships that have come into use in recent years, like the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program, say these further alienate immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants who may be reluctant to report a crime they have been a victim of or have witnessed.

    Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department has been trying to assure parents involved in the Miramonte scandal that there will be no repercussions if they speak up.

    “They have Sheriff Lee Baca’s word that there will not be prosecution or even inquiries into anybody’s legal status in this country,” Sgt. Dan Scott said by phone yesterday. “We are seeking victims, witnesses, or anybody that has information about this case to please come forward to the Sheriff’s Special Victims Unit, which is our normal process. We will not ask their legal status. The Sheriff specifically wants that message out: We will not be inquiring as to their legal status.”

    What comes of undocumented school families who step forward has been a question asked of the department since shortly after the teacher arrests were announced. The Sheriff’s Department participates in two federal-local partnerships: Secure Communities, which allows for fingerprints taken at local jails to be shared with immigration officials pre-conviction, and 287(g), which allows information about inmates in Los Angeles County jails to be shared with immigration authorities.

    The Los Angeles Police Department, on the other hand, has a policy known as Special Order 40, which bars officers from inquiring about immigration status. Not that all of the families now finding themselves in a position to decide whether or not to talk to authorities know there’s a difference. All too often they shy away from badges in general, as Raymundo did recently on campus.

    “I wanted to talk to the director and they told me the director is occupied, so they told me to talk to a sheriff,” he said by phone. “But I didn’t want to. I thought they were going to ask me for identification. So I left the school.”

    U Visa for Immigrants who are Victims of Crimes

    from The views expressed on this page are those of individual authors and may not reflect the views of the U.S. government. The information contained herein should be used for information purposes only.

    U Visa for Immigrants who are Victims of Crimes

    General Information:

    The purpose of the U visa is give victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa and only 10,000 U visas may be issued every fiscal year. Family members may also be included on the petition including spouses, children, unmarried sisters and brothers under 18, mothers, fathers, as well as stepparents and adoptive parents. An approved U visa petition will automatically grant the applicant work eligibility in the United States. An Employment Authorization Document will be included with all approved petitions, which can be shown to any employer to obtain a Social Security Number to start work legally. Currently all U visa applications are filed at the Vermont Service Center.

    U Visa Application: An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918, and there are different requirements that must be satisfied before an application can be submitted. The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in at least one of the following categories: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage situations, peonage, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.

    All petitions must include information on how the victim can assist government officials in learning more about the crime including investigation and/or prosecution of the individual(s) that committed the crime. The victim must also be willing to work with local law enforcement. The crime must have occurred in the United States or in a U.S. territory, or violated U.S. law.

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