EL CENTRO — In an effort to provide services to under-served Hispanic victims of crime in the Valley, the Imperial Valley Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an operational agreement between the Office of the District Attorney and the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
On June 6, the District Attorney’s Office received notification that an application for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Unserved/Underserved Victim Advocacy and Outreach Grant of $25,000 had been approved. The District Attorney’s Office had applied for the grant on February 6.
“The Imperial County District Attorney Victim-Witness Assistance Program plans to provide services to under-served victims by establishing a collaborative program called ‘Proyecto de Apoyo a la Comunidad Latina’ (Proyecto de Apoyo), which is the Spanish translation of ‘Latino Advocacy Project,'” explained Deborah Owen, assistant District Attorney.
Proyecto de Apoyo will work closely with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) to provide direct services and outreach to Spanish-speaking crime victims in Imperial County.
“One of the requirements of the grant is that the advocacy services be provided in a culturally competent manner,” explained Owen. CRLA is approved by the state to provide these services, so $25,000 of the grant funds will be given to CRLA for the materials and the training of the advocate.”
Owen noted that the total scope of work is estimated to cost $30,000, but she said CRLA agreed to contribute $5,000 in matched funds.
“We are very excited about this,” said Owen. “We believe it allows us to address the needs and concerns of crime victims in Imperial County and also address these in a way that brings the services to the victim.”
Owen explained that CRLA will be giving presentations to the victims about their rights under the law regarding deportation and immigration, of being informed, and their rights under the criminal justice system.
“This is important because this population has been identified as one that by being under-served and unserved many times, are reluctant to report crimes because of their mistrust of the criminal justice system,” said Owen.
“It is really refreshing to see the pose that the DA’s office has in offering services to victims who otherwise would not know they even exist, let alone giving them the opportunity to take advantage of them,” said Michael Kelley, District 3 supervisor. “I fully support this.”
The California Rural Legal Assistance Program (CRLA) is a private non-profit legal service organization designed to assist low-income individuals in rural communities whose mission is to fight for justice and individual rights alongside the most exploited communities in society. CRLA involves a network of 18 field offices and serves over 30,000 low-income families in California each year.
According to Owen, CRLA has operated an office in Imperial County since 1967 and provides both culturally and linguistically competent community-based legal services to vulnerable populations, including Spanish-speaking crime victims.
Owen added that CRLA has a longstanding position of trust in the Valley, particularly with the farmworkers community, as well as extensive experience in providing community legal education on matters such as occupational health and safety, labor and housing rights and healthcare system access. The community connection lends immediate credibility to outreach efforts because Latino victims have worked with CRLA, she said.
The grant funds of $25,000 will be transferred to CRLA to cover costs associated with Victim-Witness Under-served Advocate training requirements, including CRLA staff time, training materials development, travel, and indirect costs