Abuse At Los Angeles Schools Highlights Immigrants’ Worry Of Being Deported For Reporting Crimes

Parents whose children were abused at Miramonte Elementary have been hesitant to come to police. (Source: NY Times)

Reports of widespread abuse at schools across Los Angeles have shaken the district, but most of the attention has focused on Miramonte Elementary, a school in South Los Angeles in a working class neighborhood. Police say a teacher abused dozens of students at the school, many of whom are the children of Latino immigrants. Now, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the abuse, is concerned that some of these parents will not come forward because they are afraid of deportation.

The department has assured parents they will not ask about their immigration status when they come forward, but parents are not convinced:

“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. […]

[Attorney Jessica] 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.

Raymundo added that he went to the school to talk to the school’s director, but was told the director was busy so he could talk to the sheriff. “But I didn’t want to. I thought they were going to ask me for identification. So I left the school,” Raymundo said.

The problem Miramonte parents are facing highlights how abuse victims are reluctant to come to the police because they fear being deported. These victims can access U-Visas, intended for crime victims, which some Miramonte parents are pursuing. But that won’t alleviate the fears of all parents or convince all victims to come forward.

It’s the same problem that undocumented domestic violence victims face as well. The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with unanimous GOP opposition for the first time since 1994. Republicans oppose it because the act “expands the availability of visas for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence.” There is no reason for the GOP to oppose a measure that would better protect abuse victims. And the horrible abuse at Miramonte Elementary that parents are afraid to report because of their immigration status is another reason to offer protection so that undocumented immigrants will feel safe coming forward to police.