Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: Tax season in Downey

Nadine Subia, foreground, and Benita Romero wave at cars along Firestone Boulevard, January 7, 2010
Nadine Subia, foreground, and Benita Romero wave at cars along Firestone Boulevard, January 7, 2010 Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

This Downey income tax office is pure So Cal Americana: a flag-bedecked, immigrant-owned operation whose waving Lady Liberties have last names like Romero and Subia.

The tax office's first waving Statue of Liberty was its Indian-born owner, Dhaval Oza, who donned the costume during tax season after he began running the business five years ago. At first, he said, he was the only one in the office brave enough to stand on the sidewalk in the getup.

"That's how it started," said Oza, who arrived here as a teenager. "We did it because it was different."

Now he and his wife Hiral, who operate the tax office as franchisees, hire others to do the waving between January and April. The Downey office of Liberty Tax Service, one of a nationwide chain, has a clientele that's more or less along the same lines as the southeast L.A. County city's demographics: about half Latino, Oza said, and half everyone else.

Downey's population is nearly 34 percent foreign-born and 68 percent Latino, according to 2005-2009 census data.

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