How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

In the immigrant detention system, female detainees face risks

Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A participant in a rally outside a contractor-run immigrant detention center in New Jersey, March 2009

Earlier this month, I linked to a story out of Texas about a guard from an immigration detention facility being arrested for allegedly fondling female detainees. The only unusual thing about it was that he was arrested; the type of allegations made were not. Having reported on immigration for several years now, these kinds of stories are, unfortunately, not that uncommon.

In a report issued last week, Human Rights Watch compiled a list of sexual assault incidents, known and alleged, within the extensive network of immigration detention facilities under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the vast majority of the facilities operated by contractors.

The report points out how vulnerable female detainees are in what by and large remains a prison-like environment, despite federal government plans for reform. As has been pointed out when other problems have occurred in the detention system, i.e. poor medical care or overcrowding, oversight continues to be an issue. The Obama administration has made some changes after promising to overhaul the detention system, but the report maintains that oversight and accountability are still lacking.

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Students tell their personal stories in DREAM Act 'letters'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign parodying the famous immigrant highway-crossing sign, outside a DREAM Act rally in Los Angeles earlier this month.

For the past several weeks, I've been following a series of posts on the social-justice blog Citizen Orange that features the personal stories of undocumented college students.

Titled "DREAM Now: Letters to Barack Obama," it is part of a social media advocacy campaign in support of the DREAM Act, with the posts disseminated via a series of other supportive blogs. However, the stories of the students, with related video clips, are interesting enough in themselves to be worthy of a compelling profile series.

Part of what I like is the focus on students from various corners of the world: Young people from Iran, India, Russia and Korea are featured along with students from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. While letting readers know that illegal immigration isn't just a Latino issue is undoubtedly part of the goal of the series, being reminded doesn't hurt. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of the undocumented population of the United States is not from Latin America.

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In the news, this afternoon

Good afternoon. The morning slipped away from me as I worked on a post about local relief efforts for victims of the devastating flooding in Pakistan. But better late than never, here are some of the top immigration-related stories of the moment.


  • The Obama administration is not only breaking records in terms of deportations, but in terms of backlogged immigration cases pending resolution, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

  • I wish I'd made it to the Wizard of Oz-themed protest by immigrant advocates near President Obama's Hancock Park fundraiser yesterday, if only to hear a protester wearing a Dorothy costume say this to a reporter, per the Los Angeles Wave: "In 'The Wizard of Oz' Dorothy was lost. She couldn't find her way home. President Obama is lost and he needs to find back to keeping his promise of immigration reform.'' (The biggest story out of the fundraiser, of course, was the traffic jam.)

  • Alabama is the latest state to jump on the post-SB 1070 bandwagon, Business Week reports, with Republican legislative candidates unveiling an agenda that includes an Arizona-style anti-illegal immigration law.

  • Two good pieces on the politics behind the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate, one from the New York Times examining its role in midterm elections for Republicans, another from the Washington Post on the divisions among Democrats on the issue, especially now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has weighed in against the mosque.

  • The Arizona Republic reports on how easy it is to get around the E-Verify system, a voluntary federal online system for verifying employees' eligibility to work in the U.S.

  • Lastly, on the opinion front, a piece from Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times that takes a stand against some GOP leaders' efforts to revise the 14th Amendment in order to do away with automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of undocumented parents.

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In the news this morning

Buenos días. Here are some of the top immigration-related stories this morning, along with a couple of other good reads.


  • The Associated Press reports that $600 million border security bill, which had been temporarily put on hold due to a procedural glitch, is now is on its way to President Obama's desk after the Senate convened a special session.



  • In addition to spending on border security, the Obama administration also continues to deport record numbers of people, the Christian Science Monitor reports.



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In the news this morning

Buenos días. Here are a few of the top stories this morning, immigration-wise:


  • The Associated Press reports that about 47,000 people have been deported as the result of a federal fingerprint-sharing program known as Secure Communities, intended to seek out criminals; however, about one-fourth of those did not have criminal records.



  • The debate over whether to revise the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to people born in this country, is causing a split within the GOP, Politico reports, with former top Bush Administration aides condemning the push by some Republican leaders to end birthright citizenship.



  • The Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services officials are trying to address complaints from the entertainment industry about a spike in visa denials for visiting foreign artists.

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