How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Multi-American blog says goodbye, and thanks

Photo by Joe Goldberg/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The flag burrito photo that started it all. Accompanied by Cajun sauce, of all things. We promise not to use it again - not in this blog, at least.

In the summer of 2010, KPCC partnered with NPR to launch Multi-American, a blog created to take different kind of look at immigration in Southern California.

We'll no longer have Multi-American as a stand-alone blog, but the good news is that you’ll still find all of our immigration and emerging communities coverage on KPCC’s main website.

I’d like to thank all the readers who helped make the blog a success. Five years ago, digital storytelling was a relatively new approach for us here at KPCC. Multi-American's devoted base of readers helped inspire us to do much more of it.

Your comments fueled new stories and rich conversations online. Some of you shared deeply personal stories, like, for example, those shared by readers living in families of mixed immigration status.

You helped us explore the many ways in which generations of immigrants have shaped Southern California – and how it has shaped them, and their children and grandchildren. You joined us in conversations about identity, race, family, money, language, culture, food, roots and much more as it's lived in a region like this one. We couldn't have done it without you.

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Vendors ask cops to limit who they issue citations to

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A street vendor prepares bacon-wrapped hot dogs in downtown Los Angeles, May 2013.

As they wait for City Hall to revisit a proposal to legalize their trade, some Los Angeles street vendors and their advocates are trying an alternate tack.

They're hoping to convince law enforcement to stop issuing tickets to vendors who aren't breaking the law beyond street vending - which isn't legal in Los Angeles - and ticket only those who are breaking other laws.

"We're asking one, LAPD, to stop ticketing vendors who are not blocking sidewalks or impeding the entrance to businesses, or selling illegal goods, like pirated goods," said Cynthia Anderson-Barker with the National Lawyers Guild, one of the groups backing the vendors. "And we are asking them to please forgive some of these little tickets."

Anderson-Baker said the tickets run from $300 to $500, too much for vendors who she called "the poorest of the poor." 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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