How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Years after housing bust, fewer unauthorized immigrants in construction

Construction hard hat

Wes Peck/ Flickr

Construction is no longer one of the top-three occupations for unauthorized workers in California. According to a new report, fewer unauthorized workers have gravitated to construction and production jobs since 2007.

When Southern California’s housing boom went bust in the late 2000s, veteran construction worker Luis Enrique stuck with his trade, difficult as it was sometimes. But he says many of his fellow immigrant workers gave up - and moved on to other jobs.
“One became a driver, one went to Bakersfield to work in the fields, many went to work in restaurants," said Enrique, 46, who has been in the U.S. since his teens but doesn't have legal status.

This job shift is part of a larger trend, it turns out. A new report from the Pew Research Center finds that ever since 2007 - just before the Great Recession and the housing and construction bust - fewer unauthorized immigrant workers are gravitating toward construction jobs.

Pew demographer Jeffrey Passel said that in 2007, construction ranked the third-largest occupation for unauthorized workers in California.


In immigration news: Homeland Security official accused of favoritism, child migrants in court, executive action lawsuit, more

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. A Homeland Security report following an investigation accuses Mayorkas of favoritism in relation to the EB-5 visa program for wealthy investors.

Top Homeland Official Alejandro Mayorkas Accused of Political Favoritism- ABC News A report from a Homeland Security investigation alleges that Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas fostered “'an appearance of favoritism and special access' in how the agency treated projects that would bring visas and Green Cards to wealthy foreign investors." Mayorkas formerly headed the EB-5 program; it offered a path to legal residency for foreign investors willing who put $500,000 into a business that created U.S. jobs.

Most child migrant cases still pending in court - Southern California Public Radio In the seven months that ended in February, more than 25,000 minors under 18 were given notices to appear in immigration court. Most of these were child migrants and teens who arrived at the border from Central America last year. Of those cases, nearly 19,000 are still pending, as young migrants pursue asylum and other forms of immigration relief. KPCC catches up with one teenage girl from Honduras who just won her asylum case.


Most child migrant cases still pending in court

Immigration court sketch 2

Graham Clark

A sketch of a teen girl who appeared in immigration court in Los Angeles, in the summer of 2014. No translator could be provided to speak her preferred language.

Last summer, Yoel Vallecillo wasn't sure what her fate in the United States would be. She and her younger brother had a pending application for asylum. They were terrified of going back to Honduras, where they'd been threatened by gangs.

But the immigration court process was terrifying in its own way.
“We were nervous," Yoel said in Spanish. "I was scared because I didn’t know how it would be, if it would be tough, or easy.”

After months of waiting, four hearings, and an interview with an immigration official that still makes Yoel shudder, the two teens won their case last month.

Yoel, who is now 18, and her brother are among the tens of thousands of children and teens who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an unprecedented wave of child migrants. Most were from Central America, and said they left their countries fleeing gang violence or threats.


In immigration news: Executive action lawsuit, foreign-born cops, US immigration history chart, more

LAPD, speeding, chase, los angeles police department cruiser squad patrol car

steve lyon/Flickr Creative Commons

More law enforcement agencies are moving toward letting foreign-born legal residents join their ranks as officers.

States ask court to keep block on Obama immigration orders - Politico On Monday, the plaintiffs in a 26-state lawsuit aimed at stopping President Obama's executive immigration plan urged an appeals court judge to keep the temporary block on the plan in place. They argued that the government's motion for a stay "can be denied on that basis alone: such a questionable policy should not be implemented unilaterally before judicial review." The immigration plan would give temporary legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants.

Police departments hiring immigrants as officers - USA Today More law enforcement agencies are hiring officers who are legal U.S. residents. From the story: "Most agencies in the country require officers or deputies to be U.S. citizens, but some are allowing immigrants who are legally in the country to wear the badge. From Hawaii to Vermont, agencies are allowing green-card holders and legal immigrants with work permits to join their ranks."


In immigration news: GOP immigrant tax bill, five years after SB 1070, court no-shows on rise, more

While equal rights occupy a large part of the debate over same-sex marriage, federal taxes are also also a concern for gay couples. Experts say repealing the Defense of Marriage Act will affect some same-sex couples when they file their taxes.


Republican-backed legislation aims to prevent immigrants who would obtain temporary legal status under President Obama's immigration plan from being eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for past years.

GOP to attack immigration order through taxes - USA Today Republican-backed legislation in the Senate aims to prevent immigrants who would obtain temporary legal status under President Obama's immigration plan from being eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for past years. From the story: "Their legislation would save the government $2.1 billion, according to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation."

Five years after SB 1070, Arizona immigrants defy climate of intimidation - Al Jazeera America From the story: "In 2010, Maricopa County was seen as the hotbed of anti-immigrant sentiment after the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070, a measure that required local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected to be in the United States illegally, a measure that opponents argued would inevitably invite racial profiling...But the crackdown in Arizona has not quite worked as intended."