How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A unique binational gathering place turns 40

Learning recently that a unique gathering place on the U.S.-Mexico border was turning 40 inspired me to dig up this slide show from last year, with the audio and photos taken during my last visit there.

Friendship Park is a small circle surrounding a worn marble border monument from 1851 that sits on the international boundary south of San Diego. It's part of the larger Border Field State Park, a place I've always found fascinating in that for years, it has been the only public park on the border where people can gather - though more recently, only with U.S. government permission - to visit with people in Mexico through the fence.

Until 2009, this was a popular day trip destination for Mexican American families from Los Angeles, Riverside and beyond. The park drew families who would pull up beach chairs and umbrellas and spend the day catching up with relatives on the Tijuana side of the fence. Some who traveled there were the spouses of deportees. Many were mixed-status families in which some members could travel, but some could not.

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Before Banksy, the running family was immigration icon and art

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

One of the original signs as seen on I-5 just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

One of the original signs as seen on I-5 just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

One of the original signs as seen on I-5 just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

One of the original signs as seen on I-5 just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006


If you don't live in California, you might not be familiar with the road sign that has become synonymous with illegal immigration and immigration in general, and that has spawned countless interpretations over the years. But you may have seen the image itself, or a version of it.

It's the black silhouette of a family of three set against a bright yellow background, the characters leaning forward as they run. There's a man, a woman and a little girl, her pigtails flying. Even without faces, the characters convey a sense of desperation.

The running family was a familiar sight to motorists driving between Los Angeles and San Diego for close to 20 years, emblazoned on signs along Interstate 5. Several of the signs went up in the San Diego area in the early 1990s as a warning to motorists at a time when smugglers were forcing their charges to run across the freeway to evade immigration authorities, often with tragic results.

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After the Tucson shooting, conversation about 'rhetoric' remains tied to immigration

Photo by Tom Peck/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Border fence in Cochise County, AZ

It's a given that the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting that left six dead and critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this weekend in Tucson wasn't acting purely on the political rhetoric coming out of the Grand Canyon State, nor on Sarah Palin's map of congressional districts with crosshairs over them. As with most things, it's much more complicated than that.

But Saturday's tragedy, regardless of the shooter's motive, has opened up a discussion that is still worth having. The incident has led to a national conversation about the political tone that has been coming out of Arizona, and much of that has to do with immigration politics - and, yes, the surrounding rhetoric.

The state is embroiled in controversy over its SB 1070 illegal immigration law, another new law that has essentially banned a Mexican American studies program, and the championing by some conservative political leaders of a national movement to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.

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Video: Climbing the border fence in less than 18 seconds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHjKBjM1ngw&feature=player_embedded

This comes via The Atlantic's Daily Dish.

I probably couldn't do this myself, at least not nearly as fast. But obviously, many people can.

Embedded into the video near the end is a link to a trailer for filmmaker Roy Germano's award-winning documentary "The Other Side of Immigration," which tells the immigration story from the perspective of small-town residents in Mexico and explores why so many people leave to work in the United States.

The fence video is a clever attention-grabber for the film, but it gets its own point across in no time.

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Top five immigration stories of 2010, #5: The Tamaulipas migrant massacre


Immigration has been one of the biggest topics in the news this year, pretty much as it has been nearly every year during the past decade. This year was of special interest, however, not only in terms of what happened (as in Arizona's partial enactment of its precedent-setting SB 1070), but also because of what didn't happen, as in the recent defeat of the Dream Act.

This week I'll be highlighting the top five immigration stories of 2010. This is only my list - everyone who is affected by or follows immigration issues will likely have his or her own list of the most important stories, as there are many of them. But here are the biggest stories as I've observed them this year, starting with this one:

#5: The Tamaulipas migrant massacre

Last week, when the Mexican government admitted that it was investigating the reported kidnapping of 50 Central American migrants earlier this month in the southern state of Chiapas, the news recalled a disturbing story from earlier this year: The tragic kidnapping and mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants last August by drug cartel soldiers in the border state of Tamaulipas.

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