How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Guatemalan teen migrant says gang members broke his leg, forced him to flee

U.S. Agents Take Undocumented Immigrants Into Custody Near Tex-Mex Border

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A mother and child, 3, from El Salvador await transport to a processing center for undocumented immigrants after they crossed the Rio Grande into the United States on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. One teenage boy from Guatemala has taken his case to L.A. Superior Court in his attempt to stay in the U.S., saying he left Guatemala after gang members broke his leg.

As the White House and Congress debate plans for dealing with the unaccompanied minors and families arriving from Central America, one teenage boy from Guatemala has taken his case to Los Angeles Superior Court in his attempt to stay.

The boy, who is 17, is hoping to remain in Los Angeles with his older brother. He claims that his leg was broken after being beaten by gang members in his native country last year, after he endured harassment and intimidation for not joining the gang.

Although many youths arriving from Central America cite gang violence as a reason for leaving, this case starkly illustrates the brutality many have fled, said Alex Galvez, the boy's attorney. 

"I think what's unique about this case are the circumstances and the facts behind it," Galvez said. "This kid was actually attacked and had his leg broken by the gang because he refused to join the gang."


In immigration news: Central American leaders come to US, Obama and executive action, kids in immigration court, more

Central Americans Undertake Grueling Journey Through Mexico To U.S.

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Central American migrants ride north on top of a freight train on August 6, 2013 near Juchitan, Mexico. Thousands of Central American migrants ride the trains, known as 'la bestia', or the beast, during their long and perilous journey through Mexico to reach the U.S. border. This week, Central American leaders have come to Washington, D.C. meet with President Obama as children and families continue to flee violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Central American leaders want Washington’s help with immigration crisis - Washington Post Central American leaders have come to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Obama on the border migrant crisis as children and families flee violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Said Honduras’s Juan Orlando Hernández in an interview: “Your country has enormous responsibility for this...The problem of narco-trafficking generates violence, reduces opportunities, generates migration because this [the United States] is where there’s the largest consumption of drugs."

Obama's immigration flip flop - Politico President Obama says he plans to soon take some kind of action on immigration, which he's so far resisted. From the story: "Despite the flow of young Central American children across the southwestern border, Obama remains committed to taking significant action, according to senior advisers and advocates who have attended recent meetings with White House officials. In other words, Obama has signaled that he intends to do exactly what he’s long said he’s unable to do."


A look inside immigration court for children

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Graham Clark

A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles earlier this week.

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Graham Clark

A teen girl from Guatemala appeared in immigration court. No translator could be provided to speak her preferred language, a Mayan dialect.

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Graham Clark

A 17 year-old boy appeared in immigration court, requesting to be deported to Mexico.

A couple of times a week, on the high floors of a bank building near Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles, immigration judges hear the cases of children and teens.

The juvenile court dockets within the already strained federal immigration court system have become increasingly busy lately, as more children and teens from Central America have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border solo or with family members. And in Los Angeles, where many of these kids are reunited with relatives within the region's large Central American community, it's not hard to get a sense of the demand.
There are two juvenile immigration court dockets in Los Angeles per week, one for detained children still in federal custody, the other for kids who have been released to family members.

One recent Thursday morning, attorney Kristen Jackson of Public Counsel, which represents some juvenile clients, studied the docket list posted outside the courtroom: 24 kids, all but one from Central America. She recalled how the released kids' docket didn't exist in Los Angeles until about five years ago.


Local Cambodians give testimony, await Khmer Rouge verdict

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime at a 2010 workshop in Long Beach. They learned how to submit written testimony to the war cimes tribunal in Cambodia currently prosecuting former high-level Khmer Rouge officials.

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ASRIC/Vanta El

Chanthan Pich, 73, contributed written testimony to the war cimes tribunal. She lost 17 family members during the four-year-long reign of the Khmer Rouge.

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Josie Huang/KPCC

Roth Prom of Long Beach submitted testimony to the war tribunal. She said she has a lot of pent-up anger, and did not hesitate to participate.

Thirty-five years after the Khmer Rouge regime terrorized Cambodia, judgements are coming for two former senior officials charged with war crimes, and Chanthan Pich doesn't want to hear anything but "guilty" verdicts.

"Not guilty, no justice," Pich, 73, said.

Pich, part of Long Beach's Cambodian community, is deeply invested in the Aug. 7 court outcome. She is among thousands of Cambodians who started over in the U.S. after surviving Maoist-style Communist rule that left nearly two million people dead through starvation, disease, torture and execution.

She is also one of nearly 200 survivors in the U.S. who submitted written testimony to assist prosecutors in the U.N.-backed tribunal.

Some fellow survivors found it too painful to dredge up the memories needed to file their statements. There are those too disgusted with a court process that’s been plagued by delays and charges of corruption. Still others worry about retribution being visited on relatives in Cambodia if they gave their accounts on the record. Some former Khmer Rouge members are leaders within the current government.


In immigration news: Congress split over migrant children, Jeb Bush's op-ed, con artists target migrant kids' families, American-born gangs, more

Jeb Bush Testifies At House Hearing On Free Enterprise And Economic Growth

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush testifies before a House committee. The potential presidential candidate is urging fellow Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

To Cope With Child Immigrants, Competing Plans Emerge From Congress - NPR The Republican-led House and Democratic-dominated Senate are not surprisingly split over how to handle the influx of child migrants at the border. The House is concentrating on changing a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that makes it difficult to immediately deport anyone from a non-contiguous country (most of these children are coming from Central America.) Senate Democrats are standing firm on keeping the law as is, saying these children deserve a chance to seek asylum. But both the House and Senate plan on giving the president less money than the $3.7 million he's requested.

Scam targets families of migrant youths - Dallas Morning News According to the FBI, swindlers have obtained details about migrant children being held at military bases in Texas and Oklahoma and are using it to try and extort up to several thousand dollars from their families. From the story: "Cases of the fraud have been reported in 12 states so far, from New York to California, with the con artists seeking $350 to $6,000 in so-called fees, the FBI says."