How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Student Steve Li being released from detention

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A week ago, it seemed there would be nothing stopping the deportation of San Francisco student Steve Li to Peru, where the 20-year-old Chinese-American was born while his family was living there. Now, a few days after the intervention of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein temporarily halted his removal from the country, he is being released from an Arizona detention center and is on his way home.

Inside Bay Area and other outlets reported earlier today that Li would soon be on his way back to San Francisco via Greyhound bus, according to his lawyer. From the story:

He will remain under supervision and must regularly report to immigration officers once he is back in the city, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

News of his release came hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private relief bill in Congress on behalf of Li. The bill, if enacted, would grant Li a green card allowing him to permanently reside in the United States. Congress rarely passes such bills, but the mere introduction of the private bill effectively halted Li's deportation.

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A last-minute reprieve for student Steve Li

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A photo of Steve Li, from a Facebook page set up by friends

San Francisco college student Steve Li will not be boarding a plane for Peru today as planned, his deportation stalled following a last-minute reprieve.

Late yesterday afternoon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that while the 20-year-old Chinese-American nursing student remains in custody at an immigrant detention center in Arizona, his Monday deportation to Peru was put off. Li's attorney Sin Yen Ling told the Chronicle that an immigration officer advised her of the change, but did not provide her with details as to why or what happens next.

From the story:

"Why? I don't know," said Ling, whose client is at a detention center in Florence, Ariz. "In terms of when he's going to be put on a plane, I don't know that either. They wouldn't provide me with additional information but I do think it has a lot to do with the advocacy work that's been happening."

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A Chinese-American student's pending deportation to Peru

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Steve Li in a photo from a Facebook page set up by friends

A story that has been making the rounds in recent days is that of Steve Li, a 20-year-old Chinese-American college student from San Francisco who is being held in an Arizona immigrant detention center awaiting his imminent deportation to Peru.

The destination seems baffling at first. Here's the backstory: Li's parents left China for Peru before he was born. He was born in Peru and lived there as a child until his parents left for the United States, fed up with political instability there. They applied for asylum here but their application was denied. At the time they arrived in the United States, Li was 12 years old.

While deportation cases involving American-raised young people are sadly common, Li's case is unusual in that his parents, who were temporarily detained then released on electronic monitoring, would be deported to China permitting their native country takes them back. But because they had their child in Peru, where Li has no friends or family, he is considered a Peruvian national.

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287(g) basics: How the federal-local immigration partnership works

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009

Last night, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to extend the county’s participation in a partnership between Sheriff’s Department officials and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement known as 287(g), which allows deputies to screen people who land in county jail for immigration status.

Just what is 287(g)? The federal program derives its odd name from a 1996 amendment to the immigration law that authorized it. From the ICE website:

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g), performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This authorizes the secretary of DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers.

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Q&A: An L.A. domestica on housekeeping work, papers, and Meg Whitman's maid

Photo by Bulent Yusef/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A detail from a mural in London, June 2006

The scandal that erupted earlier this week over Meg Whitman employing an undocumented immigrant as her housekeeper for nine years has turned the governor's race into a circus of press conferences in recent days. Republican candidate Whitman insists she did not know that ex-housekeeper Nicandra Diaz Santillan was working here illegally, in spite of a Social Security no-match letter that would have raised a red flag; Diaz, who at one time represented herself as having documents, insists otherwise.

Looking beyond the back-and-forth sound bites, however, beyond its high-profile context, the business relationship between Whitman and Diaz is not so noteworthy in itself. Each day, undocumented (and some documented) domesticas - as the legions of women who clean our homes call themselves - board buses headed for the Westside or the Valley or Los Feliz or the Palisades, you name it, to clean the homes of clients who, by and large, are less concerned with their immigration status than how they make their floors shine and their mirrors sparkle.

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