How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. city officials wade into media diversity

Photo by Ben McLeod/Flickr (Creative Commons)


It's not every day that city elected officials make a case for diversifying the staff of media outlets. Which makes a resolution passed yesterday by the Los Angeles City Council, meant to address a recent on-air controversy over racially charged language, worth noticing.

The background: In a segment last month a few days after singer Whitney Houston's untimely death in Beverly Hills, radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of KFI 640 AM’s “The John and Ken Show” referred to the late star as a "crack ho."

The duo was suspended for two weeks, but complaints continued, as the Houston flap was the most recent in a string of incidents that insulted minorities. In recent months, both Latino and Asian American groups had sought to have the show taken off the air. Asian American civil rights groups in Los Angeles protested earlier this year after the hosts made disparaging comments about Koreans; last fall, several Latino groups picketed Clear Channel’s offices in Burbank, demanding the show be canceled after the hosts gave out the phone number of an immigrant advocacy group’s spokesman on air. Their fans deluged the man with hate calls.

Read More...

L.A. votes to support a Secure Communities opt-out

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Los Angeles city leaders have become the latest elected officials to shun the federal Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration authorities.

The City Council voted 11-1 today to support a California bill that would allow the state to renegotiate its contract with the Homeland Security department, letting cities and counties opt out of the program. The bill recently cleared the state Assembly and goes to the Senate next.

The vote on the Los Angeles resolution is more symbolic than anything, as at present, individual jurisdictions can't choose not to participate, with the agreements between the federal government and the states. In recent weeks and days, the governors of Illinois, New York and most recently Massachusetts have announced plans to withdraw their states from Secure Communities, although federal officials have said it's not so easily done.

Read More...

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.

Read More...