How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigrants and the Violence Against Women Act: Two key components

Photo by European Parliament/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In recent days, a battle over renewal of the Violence Against Women Act has become increasingly partisan and increasingly heated.

There are two competing versions of a bill to renew the 1994 federal law. One, approved by the Senate, would expand some ways in which immigrants and other abuse victims are protected. The opposing House version, approved this week, proposes rolling back protections for several groups, including gay, lesbian and transgender victims, as well as immigrants.

And while proponents of the House bill say their goal is to prevent fraud, it's the rollbacks that have caused the biggest outcry in recent days, with advocates for women, immigrants, LGBT victims and others saying such changes will only make victims more vulnerable.

It's a broad piece of legislation, but here are two of the critical aspects of VAWA that apply to immigrants and which are being challenged:


When immigrants are crime victims, how much does legal status matter?

Photo by Grant Slater/KPCC

As the scandal surrounding Miramonte Elementary School unfolds, with the school staff being replaced after two teachers were accused of committing lewd acts against children, parents have been drawing together. Some have already sought legal counsel.

But concerns have been brought up as to whether all families in this South Los Angeles community may feel safe coming forward. The neighborhood in which the school sits is one whose demographics have changed over the years, and is now home to many immigrants from Latin America. In a neighborhood that was once primarily black, the student body is now 98 percent Latino, according to the school website. More than half the students are English learners.

As families come forward, some parents have raised questions as to whether everyone who fears their child may have been victimized will speak up, fearing going public with their immigration status. But in cases like these, even parents who lack legal immigration status have certain rights. Telemundo legal expert and immigration attorney Alma Rosa Nieto explains in this Q&A.