How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

As Georgia considers ban on undocumented students, a wide gap in states' college policies

Photo by un.sospiro/Flickr (Creative Commons)

While obtaining a college education has become somewhat easier for undocumented students in California lately, it's becoming progressively more difficult in the South.

Georgia's state senate approved a bill this week that, if it becomes law, will make the state the third  after South Carolina and Alabama to ban undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities. Already, Georgia university officials had voted to bar these students from the state's top five universities, leading some professors in Athens, Georgia to create an underground teaching facility last year dubbed Freedom University.

There's a wide gap between what's been happening in South and what's been happening in the West. In California, for example, two new state laws allow undocumented students access to the state financial aid, as they have already in Texas and New Mexico (and to a lesser degree Illinois, which allows them access to private funding). And to fill in gaps, several Silicon Valley tycoons have joined forces to help fund a San Francisco nonprofit that provides scholarships, legal and career advice for undocumented students who arrived as minors.


It's a no-go for California Dream Act repeal effort

Screen shot from's Facebook page

It looks like the just-enacted California Dream Act is here to stay, at least until the next attempt at a ballot initiative to repeal it. The "Stop AB 131" campaign, spearheaded by Republican state Assembly member Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, has announced that the effort failed to gather enough signatures in order to place a referendum on the November ballot.

According to the campaign's Facebook page, paid and volunteer signature-gatherers fell more than 57,000 signatures short of the 504,760 that were needed by yesterday's midnight deadline. The initiative would have mandated a repeal to a measure signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown that provides financial aid for undocumented college students, making easier for them to pay tuition.


Top five immigration stories of 2011, #5: 'Coming out' undocumented

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student activist's t-shirt, December 2010

This week, Multi-American is counting down its top five immigration stories of 2011. It's been a tough list to narrow down with so many major stories this year, ranging from the political battle over birthright citizenship early in the year to the ongoing record deportations to the growing number of state immigration laws, a story that's still developing as a case involving Arizona's precedent-setting SB 1070 heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We'll start out today with one story that didn't come out of government, though, but rather bubbled up slowly from college campuses and gained steam via social media: the trend of "coming out" as undocumented among young people, done as a political act.

What began a few years ago among a small number of undocumented student activists has developed into a movement its own right. By December of last year, growing numbers of young, undocumented college students and their supporters were publicly revealing their status as a previous version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill that would grant conditional legal status to young people who arrived before age 16 if they went to college or joined the military, moved through the House and on to the Senate.


Awkward undocumented moments, dramatized (Video)

How awkward is it to run into a former classmate after college when he spots you working as a hotel janitor because you don't have papers? Very awkward, as dramatized in this tragicomic skit, part of a series of videos titled "Undocumented and Awkward" by a student activist group called Dreamers Adrift. An earlier video follows a guy who can't get into a bar to meet a date.

The group advocates for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented young people brought to the U.S. under age 16 if they attend college or join the military. The fact that undocumented college grads are hard-pressed to fully utilize their degrees for lack of legal status was also one of the sticking points brought up by opponents of the controversial California Dream Act, legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that makes it easier for undocumented students to pay for college.


'John and Ken' complaints prompt Latino groups to picket Clear Channel

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A protester's sign outside the Clear Channel offices in Burbank, Calif., Oct. 13, 2011

Several Latino organizations took their complaint against KFI-640 AM's "John and Ken" talk show to the street today, picketing outside the offices of Clear Channel Communications in Burbank to call for the firing of hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.

The conservative talk radio duo came under fire recently after giving out the phone number of an immigrant advocacy group's spokesman on air, resulting in the man being subjected to hundreds of hate calls.  Today, representatives from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the League of Latino American Citizens, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and other groups staged a rally outside the media company's offices at 3400 W. Olive Ave., attended by few dozen protesters.

"We call on KFI to fire them immediately," said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Pasadena-based media and civil rights advocacy group.