How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Posts of the week: Deferred action, life as an American Sikh, Latino identity and the census, the plight of 'elder DREAMers,' more


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A man holds a list of guidelines during a workshop on deferred action at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, Aug. 14, 2012

A historic change in U.S. immigration policy occurred this week as young undocumented immigrants began applying on Wednesday for deferred action, a form of temporary legal status that is part of a new Obama administration policy. Well over a million people could qualify, and could also be eligible for work permits if they meet the requirements.

Most of the reporting this week focused on this, with a few extras. In case you missed any of these, a few highlights from the week:


‘And what do you call yourself…?’: Readers on the census and ethnic identity The U.S. Census Bureau has proposed changing how Latinos self-identify on census forms, potentially making them an exclusive category regardless of race. A few reactions from readers.


'Dream' jobs: Deferred action begins Wednesday (Audio) No Multi-American posts for Tuesday, as I was on radio duty, but this report from the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles took in some of anticipation before the start of deferred action as hopeful applicants attended a workshop.


How the Latino/Hispanic label still fails to stick

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Spotted on a car window in L.A., February 2011

It's been approximately four decades since the origin of the "Hispanic" ethnic identity category on census forms, later updated to "Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish Origin." And it's been argued that in the years since, while Hispanic/Latino is not a racial category, the term itself has forced a racialization of Latinos in spite of their being so culturally and racially diverse, they defy a cohesive definition.

It's the latter point that's driven home in a new Pew Hispanic Center report. As it turns out, all these years later, a majority of Latinos still prefer to buck a one-size-fits-all label, tending instead to identify by country of origin.

According to the Pew study, 51 percent of those surveyed said they most often identify themselves by their family's country of origin, while only 24 percent prefer to use a pan-ethnic label. And more than two-thirds described Latinos as having "different cultures rather than a common culture," according to a report summary.


More on Latinos and race: The rise of the Latino 'American Indian'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Car sticker seen on an L.A. freeway, February 2011

A recent post highlighted a Migration Policy Institute article that explored the origin of the “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin” category on census forms, and in the 40 years that Latinos have been asked to identify in terms of Spanish origin, the varying ways in which they have also come to identify in terms of race.

The "Hispanic or Latino" category is an ethnic category, not a racial one. In the 2000 census, slightly under half of the 35.2 million Latinos counted reported their race as white. The rest of the racial categories they can choose from may or may not apply. Not surprisingly perhaps, 43 percent of Latinos in 2000 identified themselves as “other race.”

But a fascinating piece in the New York Times this weekend reported a rise in the number of Latinos identifying themselves as "American Indian" in the 2010 census. From the story: