How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. County inmates released to ICE, by the numbers

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county participates in the federal 287(g) program.

Crowding, violence and allegations of civil rights abuses are among the reasons the embattled Los Angeles County jail system is under federal investigation. But the county has also faced criticism in recent years in some circles for its federal-local partnerships with immigration authorities.

Sheriff Lee Baca a supporter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial Secure Communities enforcement program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration officials. The county has also long participated in a smaller voluntary federal-local partnership called 287(g), in which deportable inmates are identified and released post-conviction to immigration officials.

How many L.A. County inmates are released to ICE? The 2011 numbers are found buried in new report on the county jail system from an independent justice expert, which among other things recommended closing the Men's Central Jail downtown because of violence problems.

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Will LA County's Latinos get more political clout, one way or another?

Art by Eric Fischer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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

UPDATE: Los Angeles County Supervisors have voted down the plans 4 to 1 that would create a second Latino-majority district, so it's likely the matter will now go to court. 

Will Latinos in Los Angeles County wake up tomorrow with greater political representation via a new Latino-majority supervisorial district? It seems unlikely as the county Board of Supervisors votes tonight, and a court battle may be in order. But there have been substantial fireworks in getting to this point, and there will be more.

At issue is whether the county, which is nearly 50 percent Latino, should have a second Latino-majority district in addition to the one represented by county Supervisor Gloria Molina. She is the only Latino member of the five-member County Board of Supervisors. She and Latino advocacy groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) have long held that the county's Latino residents are grossly underrepresented.

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Angelenos and Angeleños in the age of the Korean taco

Photo by Ron Reiring/Flickr (Creative Commons)


And while those of us there didn't come away with any clear answer, we did come away with some great ideas and insightful observations from both the audience and the panelists.

The idea for the panel came out of a piece written a couple of months ago by Southern California author D.J. Waldie on the disappearance of the Spanish consonant ñ, pronounced “enye,” from "Angeleños" in the late 19th century as eastern and midwestern migrants came west, diluting and eventually burying the city's Spanish-speaking identity.

But with all of the demographic changes that have occurred in Los Angeles since, a discussion of the city's evolving identity today seemed in order. Waldie joined me on the panel, as did Eric Avila, an associate professor of Chicano studies, history and urban planning at UCLA.

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Featured comment: One reader's plea for 'space' in Compton

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A post from last week regarding the political scenario in Compton, where Latino residents are vying with the city's established but shrinking African American community for political power, drew a series of comments over the weekend. While most of the later comments revolved around illegal immigration (and no, the lawsuit filed by three Latina residents trying to change Compton's local election process has nothing to do with this) there was an intriguing comment at the beginning that I reread a few times.

From a reader identified as "1tag," the comment, below, captured something beyond what's often described in simple terms as racial and ethnic tension in parts of Los Angeles County such as Compton, where a traditionally African American population has given way to a Latino majority.

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Compton: A shifting population, except in City Hall

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos, red dots represent Asians and green dots represent whites. Each dot represents 25 people.

When the initial 2010 census results were released last month, the attention quickly turned to the nation's growing Latino population and, in turn, how it will shape the political landscape.

While the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release new data on race and ethnicity, it's already clear that some of the states with the biggest population growth, and which will gain Congressional seats, also happen to be states where Latinos have come to represent a bigger chunk of the population in recent years. But does this necessarily translate into more political clout for Latinos? And as these population shifts take place, what shape do they take at the neighborhood level, culturally and politically?

An interesting case study is playing out in Compton, a working-class Los Angeles County city that was long predominantly African American (some may remember it as the Compton of N.W.A's 1988 hip hop classic Straight Outta Compton) but where Latinos now make up two-thirds of the population.

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