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Amid Miramonte Elementary School Sex Abuse Tragedy, Immigrant Families Afraid to Turn to Police

by Pili Tobar on 02/08/2012 at 1:38pm

miramonte schoolAs the story of sexual abuse at Miramonte elementary school in Los Angeles continues to shock the nation, Spanish-language media is reporting another tragic development.  Parents of some Miramonte Elementary School children are afraid to go to informational meetings or talk to the police because they worry that contact with the authorities could lead to deportation.

According to the Associated Press, “Parents of Miramonte school students . . . told The Associated Press that they aren’t talking to authorities because they are afraid that the Sheriff’s Department, which is in charge of the investigation, will refer them to immigration through the Secure Communities program” (translated from the Spanish by America’s Voice Education Fund).  Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is a vocal supporter of Secure Communities, a controversial federal program that facilitates the deportation of some immigrants who come into contact with state and local police.  According to the AP, the school is 98% Latino, and many of the children come from immigrant families.    

The parents and children of Miramonte are going through an unspeakable nightmare.  The fact that many of them are afraid to work with law enforcement only adds to their tragedy.  This is exactly why programs that blur the line between police and immigration enforcement are dangerous.  They put enforcement of paperwork violations ahead of protecting the community from real crime.

Although it was supposed to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program has actually resulted in the deportation of tens of thousands of people who have committed no crime.  As of December 31, 2011, 26% of the people deported via Secure Communities (43,028 individuals) were non-criminals, and 57% (92,544) had either committed no crime or were guilty of only a minor offense, including traffic violations.  In Los Angeles County, 22% of these deportations consisted of non-criminals and fully 44% were either non-criminals or had minor violations.  In addition, a recent Warren Institute/Cardozo report revealed that Latinos are disproportionately targeted by the program.  It’s no wonder that immigrants fear law enforcement in their community and see Secure Communities as a deportation dragnet sweeping up innocent people—because it is.      

Community and business leaders across the country, as well as law enforcement experts, say that the program is hurting public safety by destroying the relationship between police and the community that is no vital to reporting, investigating, and prosecuting real criminals.  Last year, the governors of New York, Illinois and Massachusetts attempted to pull their states’ participation in the program because of these concerns.  But not only has the Department of Homeland Security not allowed these states to opt out (despite earlier promises), it has continued its effort to bring Secure Communities to every corner of America by the end of this year.

For more on Secure Communities and its impact on public safety, see:

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