How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Dispatch from Monterey Park: An all-Asian city council?

Photo by debbychen/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Monterey Park mini-mall, January 2007

A story I linked to in an earlier post today is worth highlighting because, depending on today's municipal voting results, a city in the San Gabriel Valley could make some history.

The Alhambra Source, a local news website, published a story today about how five of the eight candidates competing for Monterey Park's open council seats are Asian American. It's possible that Monterey Park could become the first city with an all-Asian city council in the continental United States. From the piece:

If three of them win the at-large election, Monterey Park, recognized as the first American suburban Chinatown, would make history once again. Even if they do not — with some strong Hispanic candidates also vying for the open seats — the city offers a glimpse at transitions in ethnic politics from a city that has been a leading edge in Asian American civic participation.

In the 1980s Monterey Park became home to the first predominantly Asian population on the mainland United States and was the first to elect a Chinese mayor. But it took more than a decade for the City Council to resemble the demographics of the city of 60,000. Now, another decade later, Asian Americans dominate the council with a presence greater than their actual numbers.

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City candidates reveal increasingly diverse L.A.

Art by Eric Fischer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A color-coded ethnicity map of the Los Angeles area, based on older census data

Today's municipal elections in Los Angeles and other local cities happen to coincide with the scheduled release this afternoon of 2010 Census data for California, which will show us the racial and ethnic breakdown of the state and how it has changed since ten years ago.

The census data is just beginning to roll out, but the roster of candidates for Los Angeles City Council, and for council seats in surrounding cities, is a good indication of what the face of Southern California looks like. On the L.A. ballot alone are eight immigrants, along with others who are the children and grandchildren of immigrants.


  • Council District 2, which covers much of the far eastern and southeastern portions of the San Fernando Valley, is represented by incumbent Paul Krekorian, who is Armenian American. He is running against businessman Augusto Bisani, an Italian immigrant who was born in Rome and arrived here in 1968.

  • In Council District 4, a central district stretching from Koreatown into Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood and North Hollywood, incumbent and Silver Lake native Tom LaBonge, whose L.A. family roots date to the 1800s, is running against two immigrants. Tomás O'Grady, a businessman and environmental activist, is a native of Ireland who came to the United States in 1990. Stephen Box, a producer and transportation activist, is a recently naturalized immigrant from Australia.

  • Council District 6, which covers much of the San Fernando Valley, is represented by Pacoima-born council member Tony Cardenas. He is running against other candidates of Latino descent, website developer Rich Goodman, whose bio describes him as coming from a "multicultural Mexican American family," and code enforcement official David Barron, whose father was born in Mexico City. A fourth candidate, businessman James "Jamie" Cordaro, is third-generation Italian American.

  • In Council District 8, which covers Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, West Adams and other parts of South Los Angeles, incumbent and former police chief Bernard Parks is running against two other African American candidates, nonprofit CEO Forescee Hogan-Rowles and firefighter Jabari S. Jumaane.

  • South L.A's shifting demographics are more evident in neighboring Council District 10, a traditionally African American district whose population makeup has changed in recent years as immigrants move in. Four African American candidates, among them incumbent Herb Wesson, Jr., crime victim advocate Althea Rae Shaw (the aunt of slain high school football star Jamiel Shaw, Jr.), employment specialist Austin Dragon and businessman Chris Brown, are joined on ballot by Andrew Kim, a Korean-born civil rights and immigration lawyer, and Luis Montoya, an L.A.-raised Latino whose family runs a Christmas tree lot.

  • Council District 12 in the far northwestern portion of the ethnically diverse San Fernando Valley was represented by City Council member Greig Smith, who is retiring. Among the half-dozen candidates competing for the seat are two immigrants from India, businessman Dinesh "Danny" Lakhanpal and Navraj Singh, a restaurateur and formerly a captain in the Indian army, and Armineh Chelebian, a neighborhood council member who arrived with her family from Iran when she was a teenager. They are joined by two Valley natives, Smith's chief of staff Mitchell Englander and Brad Smith, a neighborhood council member and former journalist, and by real estate broker and longtime Valley resident Kelly Lord.

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Census: Ten states with the biggest Latino population growth so far

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Screen shot of U.S. Census Bureau map showing state-by-state 2010 data, including ethnic populations


The results of the 2010 Census continue to roll out state by state, with California's due out next week. In the meantime, ethnic and racial data for half the states has been released by now, and the Latino population gains from 2000 to 2010 are impressive.

Of the states whose data has been released, Texas still has the biggest share of Latino residents, followed by Nevada, a new addition to the list. But the biggest percentage growth is still being seen in states that are non-traditional destinations for Latino immigrants and their descendants. States like Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina among others have seen triple-digit growth in their Latino populations, though the total share of Latinos in these states remains small.

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Five states with the biggest Latino population growth so far as 2010 census numbers roll out

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Screen shot of U.S. Census Bureau map showing state-by-state 2010 data, including ethnic populations

The biggest news yet from the 2010 Census as state-by-state ethnic and racial data comes out is yesterday's numbers from Texas, which show that the state's Latino population has soared, accounting for 65 percent of its population growth between 2000 and 2010. The overall population growth will give Texas four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, making for much speculation about how much of a political impact Latinos in the nation's second-most populous state will have.

Of the states whose data is out so far, Texas has by far the biggest share of Latino residents. But some of the biggest percentage growth seen yet is in states that are non-traditional destinations for Latinos, immigrants and their descendants. Though their overall Latino populations remain small, states like Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, and South Dakota are seeing triple-digit growth, and Virginia, home to a recent rash of of anti-illegal immigration activism, is close behind.

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On the emergence of a mixed race nation

Photo by 24oranges.nl/Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of the most e-mailed and tweeted stories yesterday involved students from the University of Maryland, but it involved a subject very close to the heart of Southern California. The New York Times piece explored the emergence of a mixed race America created by immigration and intermarriage through the members of the university's Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, a group of students of mixed racial and ethnic heritage ranging from black-white to Japanese-Irish who are proud to identify as such.

According to the story, one in every seven new marriages in this country is between people of different ethnicities or races (there's a nifty graphic). Mixed race Americans are "one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups," and racial statistics from the 2010 census, which will soon be released, will likely reveal more along the lines of this trend.

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