How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Why Vietnamese Americans show strength at the ballot box

little saigon vietnamese flag westminster asian garden mall

Photo by DHN via Wikimedia Commons

Historical South Vietnamese flags wave in Orange County's Little Saigon. High turnout by Vietnamese American voters could help decide a tight county supervisor race.

Vietnamese American voters could be the deciding factor in who wins a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

According to an analysis of mail ballots, Vietnamese American voters had a high turnout in the extremely tight First District race between Democrat Lou Correa, a Democrat, and Andrew Do, a Republican.

A tally of early mail ballots from the independent firm Political Data showed Vietnamese American voters making up almost half of the ballots returned, 46 percent.
 
This early breakdown hints at a level of engagement that’s unique among Asian American voters, according to UC Riverside political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan.
 
“I think what is interesting with the Vietnamese American vote in Orange County is that it goes counter to the stereotype of Asian Americans as generally not involved in politics," he said.
 
Asian American voters in general don't turn out in large numbers. They participate below the national average, on par with Latinos. According to the same early ballot count in Orange County, Latinos represented only 17 percent of the mail votes.
 
Ramakrishnan says Vietnamese Americans, who tend to lean right, stand out among Asian American voters for a couple of reasons.
 
“One, you have a very politicized population," he said, "especially given the refugee crisis and the strong anti-Communist stance among many Vietnamese refugees that ended up coming here.”
 
Second, he said, and just as important, is their strength in numbers: Vietnamese immigrants have concentrated in places like Orange County and San Jose, creating a sort of power base where their votes can and do influence elections.

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In immigration news: Anti-executive action bill, costs of deportation v. illegal immigration, more

New York Immigrant Groups Rally To Celebrate Obama Announcement On Immigration

John Moore/Getty Images

A demonstrator in New York holds a sign in support of President Obama's executive action announcement, Nov. 21, 2014. The GOP-led House has passed a bill that seeks to undo the order; Senate Democrats are reportedly trying to prevent it from getting a Senate floor vote.

Democrats likely to block House immigration bill - Politico Senate Democrats are reportedly considering steps to prevent a House bill that seeks to stop President Obama's immigration order from reaching the Senate floor for debate. From the story: "This would prevent consideration of any amendments to the bill, but also flex Democrats’ minority muscles and create a scheduling headache for Republican leaders." It would also force Republicans to find another way to fund the Department of Homeland Security past the end of next month.

Obama seizes leverage on immigration - The Hill President Obama is calling for a "clean" funding bill for Homeland Security from Republican lawmakers, who have wanted to tie funding to Obama's immigration order. House GOP leaders have pushed a bill that aims to undo the executive order signed by Obama in November. From the story: "During a visit to the House Democratic retreat, the president is expected to seize on a suggestion from some Republicans that they allow funding for the department to lapse if they are unable to secure concessions."

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Atomic Cafe: Little Tokyo music landmark falls to wrecking ball

Atomic and Troy Cafes

Nancy Sekizawa via DubLab

Nancy Sekizawa ran the Atomic Cafe for her parents during the '70 and '80s and turned it into the place for top punk bands to hang out.

Atomic Cafe

Atomic and Troy Cafes

Courtesy of Little Tokyo Service Center

Nancy Sekizawa and her parents, the Matobas, who ran the Atomic Cafe at First and Alameda starting in 1961. The Matobas had been displaced from two other spots in Little Tokyo before.


Indie rock, jazz, punk  — music always spilled from the brick building best known as the Atomic Cafe at First and Alameda in Little Tokyo.

That ends Thursday, when the low-slung building across from the Japanese American National Museum will meet a wrecking ball, as a demolition crew makes room for a new subway station.

In the 1990s, it was called the Troy Cafe and hosted Los Angeles's hottest Chicano bands, a young Beck and a long list of famous musicians.

During its heyday as the Atomic Cafe in the '70s and '80s, it attracted the likes of Sid Vicious and Debbie Harry and was known for its jukebox stocked with bootleg 45s of punk rock shows.

"It was just music that made you want to throw up sometimes, it was so grotesque sometimes," said Nancy Sekizawa with a laugh. Her family owned the restaurant, and patrons called her Atomic Nancy. "It was so great!"

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In immigration news: Court hearings delayed for years, talk of another executive action lawsuit, more

Immigration court sketch 3 b&w

Graham Clark

A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles. The federal Justice Department has reportedly been notifying thousands of immigrants that their cases are being delayed by five years; priority has been given to the cases of children and teens who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last year from Central America, prompting delays with other cases.

U.S. Delays Thousands of Immigration Hearings by Nearly 5 Years - Wall Street Journal The federal Justice Department is reportedly sending notices to thousands of immigrants that their cases are being delayed for years, as backlogs in the courts continue. From the story: "The delay makes room for higher-priority cases caused last summer by a surge in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border with Mexico. The Justice Department began notifying employees in the immigration court system last week that nonpriority cases were being bumped off the court docket and would get a Nov. 29, 2019, court date."

Boehner opens door to Obama immigration lawsuit - CNN House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has reportedly announced plans to challenge President Obama's executive immigration order in court. From the story: "Boehner told Republican House members at Tuesday morning's meeting he plans to take steps to file a lawsuit. 'We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue -- one we believe gives us the best chance of success,' Boehner said, according to a source in the room."

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After development is nixed, what's next for Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza?

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza. The building it is on would have been torn down as part of a proposed development by the MTA, which has reconsidered.

Opposition from the community has pushed the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit to rethink a proposed development at Mariachi Plaza, the iconic Boyle Heights gathering spot.

The proposal was for a roughly 120,000-square-foot development with shops and medical office space. Critics argued that it wouldn't suit the needs of the historic immigrant neighborhood - and  would encourage further gentrification from downtown. 

So now that Metro plans to go back to the drawing board, what do residents and merchants want? It depends on who you ask.

“Some people want a market, and a laundry where they can wash their clothes. Some people want parks," said Carlos M. Montes, head of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council. "Some people want recreation. And of course, some people want low-income housing.”

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