Voices in Focus: Child Sex Abuse Victims Fear Deportation in L.A. Case

In our morning perusal of the community and ethnic press, one story stood out for its possible resonance across the country.

Colorlines reported the latest on the elementary school teachers that have been charged with multiple counts of lewd conduct against the mostly Latino students of Miramonte, a neighborhood of South Los Angeles: “Lawyers say at least three alleged victims have not been interviewed by law enforcement because their parents fear deportation.

The case raises some interesting questions about the federal “Secure Communities” program, in which the fingerprints of those arrested by local authorities are shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to check against immigration databases.

Because Miramonte is an unincorporated the jurisdiction falls on Los Angeles County Sheriff which has a Secure Communities and 287(g) contract with the federal government.

“Critics of immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities often say that when the lines between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement are blurred, community members stop being able to trust the police and fear coming forward to serve as witnesses or to report crime,” said Colorlines.com’s immigration reporter Julianne Hing. “The risk of deportation is just too high. What we’re seeing now is illustrative of exactly that critique.”

“Many of the parents with information about the case are afraid there may be negative consequences (deportation). Unfortunately, their fear is not unfounded, we have seen how people have been arrested and deported for selling ice cream on the streets,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Human Rights Coalition of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) told La Opinion.

The families of the victims who are afraid to come forward are filing civil lawsuits, Colorlines reports:

On press conference Thursday lawyer Greg Owen announced he’s filed civil lawsuits on behalf of three students that the L.A. County sheriff’s investigators have yet to interview because the parents are undocumented and fear deportation, KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reported.

One of the alleged victims’ father sat next to Owen at the conference wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses to disguise his identity.

The father said he had a framed photo of his daughter in his living room given to him by Berndt that showed her holding a cookie between her lips with a white substance. The Sheriff’s office is now reporting those cookies were laced with semen.

In other news from the ethnic and community press:

* The Jewish Daily Forward ran a writeup on a film festival focusing on people with disabilities that started yesterday and runs until Feb. 14 in New York City, Westchester and on Long Island. The ReelAbilities film festival is funded by Jewish organizations, though the films it features are international:

The interest is evidence of a shift “toward being more welcoming and inclusive” to once-marginalized segments of the Jewish community, including the special-needs population.

“People are realizing that more and more people with disabilities are excluded from the Jewish community, and that has a bad impact on the people suffering from exclusion, but also on the Jewish community, which is missing out on these people,” Spokoiny said.

Harris said he believes that ReelAbilities has the potential to upend common stereotypes about people with, and films about, disabilities.

“People think the films are going to be depressing, but they are so uplifting,” said Harris, whose 24-year-old son, Jason, has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. “They’re about people who have challenges, but also about people who, through their spirit, overcome these challenges.”

* And lastly, The Root offered up a juicy tidbit this morning. The website filled us in on a foot-in-mouth moment for the designer Karl Lagerfeld, during a French interview:

“I’m a big fan of Mrs. Obama — and her face, I think, is magical,” said Lagerfeld. “My favorite line of Mrs. Obama is when a journalist asked her if she thought her skirts were not too tight, and she answered, ‘Why you don’t like my big black ass?’ This is a line I admire. She got me with that.”

Unfortunately for Lagerfeld, Michelle Obama denied saying anything of the sort.

Lagerfield’s absurd misquote of the first lady took on such a fever pitch worldwide that her White House spokeswoman was forced to issue a statement saying Michelle Obama “never” made the comment.

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