How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

In immigration news: Fewer border deaths, Ebola-related discrimination, military program on hold, more

Andres Rafael Luevano/New America Media

A grave marker for an unidentified migrant. Reported border-crossing deaths are at their lowest point in 15 years, in part as more Central American migrants crossing through Texas have been presenting themselves to authorities, seeking asylum.

Deaths At US-Mexico Border Reach 15-Year Low - NPR More on how reported border-crossing deaths are down, as more Central Americans cross through Texas and present themselves to agents seeking asylum, as opposed to trekking on through the wilderness. But as more migrant traffic has moved to Texas, more people are dying there, with the U.S. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector reporting more deaths last fiscal year than the deadly Tucson, Arizona sector.

With U.S. Ebola fear running high, African immigrants face ostracism - Reuters Some African immigrants report being discriminated against in light of the Ebola virus scare. One woman described being yelled at outside her child's school in Staten Island, New York; others have reported incidents in which they've felt under suspicion. From the story: "Some Liberians, whose home country has been hardest hit by the worst outbreak of the virus on record, say they are being shunned by friends and co-workers and fear losing their jobs."

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In immigration news: Released detainees, speculation over executive action, border deaths, new citizens called to civic duty, more

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Records show that among the 2,000-plus people released from immigrant detention last year in a money-saving move, some had faced serious criminal charges.

U.S. misinformed Congress, public on immigrant release - USA Today Newly obtained records "contradict the Obama administration's assurances to Congress and the public that the 2,200 people it freed from immigration jails last year to save money had only minor criminal records." The records show that some of those released had more serious criminal histories, including homicide charges.

Angst grows over Obama’s plans for action on immigration - The Hill U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service has reportedly sought to procure "as many as 34 million work permits and green cards." The news has been "prompting Republicans to speculate the Obama administration is readying a sprawling executive order that could offer legal status to millions of illegal immigrants."

Immigrants’ School Cases Spur Enrollment Review in New York - New York Times The state of New York is to review school districts’ enrollment procedures "in an effort to eliminate barriers to schooling for undocumented immigrant children." The review comes after reports that some recently arrived children without legal status were barred from class because their families didn't have the documents needed to enroll them.

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Gang tensions upset Pacific Islander community in Los Angeles

Samoan Tongan gang tensions

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Vaka Faletau of the Tongan American Youth Foundation leads a town hall-style meeting about gang tensions between Tongan and Samoan youth.

Samoan Tongan gang tensions

Josie Huang/KPCC

About 250 people fill the Carson Community Center after holding breakout sessions about street gangs and what to do about them.

Samoan Tongan gang tensions

Josie Huang/KPCC

June Pouesi of the Office of Samoan Affairs in Carson helped to organize and moderate the event.

Samoan Tongan gang tension

Josie Huang/KPCC

Chris Ma'umalanga, co-founder of the Tongan American Youth Foundation, said that the minority of gang members have affected the entire Pacific Islander community.

Samoan Tongan gang tensions

Josie Huang/KPCC

Benjamin Seiuli, 16, of Carson, said of Samoans and Tongans: "We're all one people."


Samoan and Tongan street gangs have clashed in southwest Los Angeles County for decades but a pair of recent shootings has brought the violence into sharp focus for the larger Pacific Islander community.

Nearly 250 people, including Tongans and Samoans, joined local law enforcement officials at a Carson Community Center town hall meeting Wednesday night, to vent their frustration over gangs and to brainstorm ways to defuse tensions between their young members.   

“The minority of children in our community who are in gangs have affected the entire community,” said Chris Ma'umalanga, co-founder of the Tongan American Youth Foundation. “Now we have to back up and say 'How can we help the situation?'”

Tongan and Samoan leaders started meeting with police after a Sept. 24 shooting outside a Long Beach home injured a Samoan pastor, his wife and another church leader. That attack came days after a Tongan man was fatally shot in Hawthorne.

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Newly naturalized citizens get called to the civic duty of voting — right away

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.

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Anya Sarinana of the Orange County registrar office helps newly naturalized citizens register to vote after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Teresa Maya of Mexico has been in the U.S. for 19 years. She studied for four years before attending the naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center. Her immediate family are American citizens and it was time to embrace the U.S., she said.

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages were available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Newly naturalized American citizens register to vote after the ceremony at the LA Convention Center.

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Volunteers gave about stickers to newly naturalized American citizens after they registered to vote.


In a room packed with thousands of newly minted citizens waving American flags on Tuesday, Los Angeles and Orange county voting officials saw an opportunity: Signing up potential new voters just in time for the Nov. 4 general election.
 
As new citizens streamed out of two citizenship ceremonies at the L.A. Convention Center, voter registration workers from L.A. and Orange counties waved them down. Then they steered them to a workshop in a room nearby, where they could sign up to vote.
 
Antonio Martinez, an immigrant from Venezuela, said he figured he'd register to vote one of these days. He wasn’t expecting an instant call to civic duty.
 
“Someone stopped me downstairs, and they told me, if you want to register right now, I can do so," said Martinez, a real estate agent who has lived in the United States for 14 years. "So I did. That is wonderful. You can register to vote and become a citizen on the same day? That is great.”
 
L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan says his office typically has a presence at citizenship ceremonies, but that this time they kicked it up a notch, with post-ceremony voter workshops that were announced to the crowd as ceremonies were ending.
 
The goal Tuesday, he said, was to take advantage of a special right new citizens have: While everyone else had to register by Monday to cast a ballot next month, the newly naturalized are excepted. They may still register onsite at a citizenship ceremony, or at county headquarters in Norwalk.
 
"Even if it is after the cutoff for voter registration, you can still register and cast a ballot in this election," Logan said. "And what greater opportunity than to get people right at the time they become citizens, and to reinforce the importance of voting and participating in our elections."
 
Some new citizens can be hard to draw to the polls. Studies have found that while foreign-born, naturalized Latinos have higher turnout than Latinos who are native-born, the opposite is true for Asian-Americans, who face language and other barriers to participation.

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In immigration news: Executive action said not to be final, Oregon driver cards, federal detainers, more

Measure 88 Oregon

Don Ryan/AP

A crowd of Measure 88 supporters wave signs during a rally in Portland, Ore. Measure 88 would require the Oregon Department of Transportation to issue driver cards to Oregon residents meeting specified eligibility, without requiring proof of legal presence in United States.

White House says immigration plans not final yet - Associated Press White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned reporters Wednesday not to make assumptions about what kind of unilateral action the president might take on immigration. Speculation about executive action bubbled up over a government contract proposal from the Homeland Security Department that called for a vendor who could "make as many as 34 million immigrant work permits and residency cards over the next five years."

Oregon driver cards: Rural voters could decide divisive immigration issue - The Oregonian Polls show voters in Oregon are torn over whether to approve Measure 88, which would allow immigrants in the country illegally to apply for state drivers' licenses. One political analyst predicts that urbanites will vote in support of the measure, suburbanites will oppose it, leaving its fate in the hands of rural voters.

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