How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: L.A. Convention Center

Photo by Grant Slater/KPCC

A newly naturalized U.S. citizen and his daughter - very much into the spirit of the occasion - leave a citizenship ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, June 27, 2012.

KPCC's Grant Slater spent a day last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown, where more than 7,300 people who came to the United States from more than 120 nations were sworn in as citizens June 27. As far as naturalization ceremonies go, it was a big one. And as often as these events are reported, everyone always has a special story.

Grant recorded mini-interviews with several of the new citizens there, among them people like Shido-Sheng Peng, 92, of Taiwan, who first came to United States in 1961 as a student. Other new citizens included a 102-year-old man from the Philippines and actor/"Dancing with the Stars" competitor Gilles Marini. Immigrants from the countries most represented came from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, China and Iran. From the piece:

We spoke with dozens of new citizens and asked them why and how they came to the United States, as well as when the first time they felt like an American was. Some felt American as soon as they set foot in the country, while others felt like they weren't truly American until they raised their hand and took the oath on Wednesday.

When did you feel like an American? Whether you were born here or not, we want to know about the moments when you felt akin to our nation, part of this country. Tell us by sending your thoughts below, or posting on KPCC's Facebook page.


American snapshot: Keeping the faith in Fullerton

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

I came across these three signs today while doing some reporting in Orange County, driving down Brookhurst Avenue in Fullerton. They sit in the parking lot of two Christian churches that sit adjacent to one another, and which together draw in congregants in three languages.

The signs represent the area's population, at least in part: Fullerton is nearly 23 percent Asian and 34 percent Latino, according to the 2010 census. Thirty-one percent of its residents are foreign born, and nearly half (46 percent) speak a language other than English at home.


American snapshot: A worker on Workers' Day, downtown

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

American flags and wide-brimmed hats for sale at a May Day immigrant rights rally in downtown L.A., May 1, 2011

One of several May Day rallies taking place in Los Angeles today is an immigrant rights march downtown this afternoon, the latest in a series of annual large rallies organized by immigrant rights advocates each May 1 since 2006, the year of the so-called “Great American Boycott.” 

A constant presence during these marches are the people who are work them, not as organizers but as entrepreneurs. They are almost exclusively immigrants, business-minded individuals who come to the rallies with their hot dog and paleta carts or coolers loaded with sliced fruit to cater to hungry protesters, who arrive toting wide-brimmed hats to sell to those wanting to fend off the sun, or who bring along a load of miniature plastic American flags for the patriotically inclined.

During last year's May Day immigrant rights march in Los Angeles, which drew about 4,000 people downtown, I snapped several portraits of these enterprising workers who never let up. Because they are in the land of opportunity for a reason.


American snapshot: Sixth Street Bridge

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The Sixth Street Bridge as seen from underneath, February 21, 2008

Goodbye, Sixth Street Bridge.

Last fall, Los Angeles city officials voted to tear it down, fearing it would not survive a major earthquake because of the faulty concrete that has dogged it since it opened in the 1930s, made weaker with time. The city is on a global search for a design "that honors the bridge’s history, but also reflects the city’s style of today," KPCC reports. The winning design will be chosen next fall.

It's one of a series of historic bridges that connect the Eastside to downtown, spanning the L.A. River. This one is special in its own way, having served as the site of a memorable Dia de Los Muertos festival that turned the bridge into a cross-cultural gathering place. And as with the rest of the bridges, its footings have served as a canvas for generations of graffiti artists.