Photo by Pyrat Wesly/Flickr (Creative Commons)
The sign at one Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department substation, June 2011
Last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department promised to keep putting out the message to parents of students in South Los Angeles' Miramonte Elementary School that they would not be questioned about their immigration status if they came forward with information about possible crimes against their children. Two teachers at the school were charged with lewd conduct recently, and one growing concern as details have emerged has been the reluctance of some parents to speak up, fearing deportation because they are undocumented.
"The Sheriff specifically wants that message out: We will not be inquiring as to their legal status," Sgt. Dan Scott said last week.
The message has since been put in writing. Here's the letter sent out recently by the Sheriff's Department to 1,400 parents:
The reassurances last week fell on on deaf ears in some cases, with several parents remaining fearful of authorities. "“I don’t trust them," said Raymundo, the father of a 10-year-old student. "If I had a ferocious pit bull at home, and I told you to come in, it won’t bite, what would you do?”
Some, like Raymundo, who declined to use his last name for fear of deportation, went to legal counsel first. Undocumented crime victims (and this includes the parents of victims) do have legal rights, including access to a special visa for crime victims known as the U-Visa. But in order to obtain it, victims must obtain certification from law enforcement authorities.
More details on the Sheriff's Department outreach efforts can be found on the KPCC website.