How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'The Fence,' a documentary, airs tonight

What promises to be an interesting documentary on the most recent construction forming part of the U.S.-Mexico border fence screens tonight on HBO at 8 p.m. Pacific. From the synopsis for "The Fence" provided by HBO:

In Oct. 2006, the U.S. government decided to build a 700-mile fence along its troubled 2000-mile-plus border with Mexico. Three years, 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers, tens of thousands of tons of metal and $3 billion later, was it all worth it?

The expense involved in building border fencing has been mind-boggling: One particular stretch of fence completed last year between San Diego and Tijuana, which required the filling in of a steep canyon with 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt, cost $48.6?million.

It was part of a $59?million contract to complete about 3½ miles of fence in the area altogether, authorized prior the Secure Fence Act (which covered the 700 miles).


Video: A long-forgotten chapter of illegal immigration

The University of Texas at Austin has been producing an excellent series of online videos called Border Views, which I discovered today thanks to the equally excellent Tejas-based website Latina Lista. The videos feature academics from the university sharing their particular expertise on immigration history, politics, and how the topic plays in the media, among other things. The range of disciplines they come from - history, politics, psychology, law, journalism and anthropology - make for an interesting mix of perspectives.

I especially enjoyed the video above, posted today by Latina Lista, in which history professor Madeline Hsu discusses how Chinese undocumented immigrants - banned from legal entry by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act - posed as Mexicans to cross into the United States via the southern border. How times have changed.


Back in the spotlight: The 14th Amendment

Photo by Victoria Bernal/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A baby at a May Day rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2010

The back-and-forth over the 14th Amendment has recently bubbled back to the top of the immigration-debate cauldron. Until now, the talk of eliminating the constitutional right to U.S. citizenship for all those born in this country or naturalized had stayed in the realm of talk, more or less. Now, legislative efforts to either repeal birthright citizenship outright or force a federal court review are apparently gaining steam.

From a story in Sunday's Arizona Republic:

There are two emerging tracks to challenging the longstanding tenet that almost any baby born on U.S. soil is an automatic citizen. One is a traditional constitutional amendment asserting that one or both parents must be U.S. citizens or at least lawful permanent residents for a baby to qualify for citizenship. The other would be to pass federal or state legislation that could provoke a court battle over the amendment's citizenship clause.


Quote of the moment: A top DHS official on illegal immigration and the labor market

Photo by Jim Greenhill/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A stretch of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, June 2006

"Until we have a legitimate labor market between Mexico and the United States, people will attempt to come here to work."

- Alan Bersin, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Tucson last Friday

Yesterday's Arizona Daily Star featured an interview with Bersin, one of the top officials in the Department of Homeland Security. He addressed the unfeasibility of sealing the border and the need for reforms to the nation's immigration system.


Because it's Friday: 'Machete'

I'm not a fan of gore by any means, but I can't wait to see this film. Any movie that is supposedly going to start a race war, according to one radio talk-show host, is something I have to see.

The film, which opens nationwide today, stars veteran Danny Trejo, he of the deeply etched facial skin and stringy long hair, as former Mexican cop who fled the cartels and now works as a day laborer in Texas. He is hired to assassinate a brazenly anti-immigrant senator (played by Robert De Niro), but the assassination goes awry and all hell breaks loose.

It has been lovingly labeled as "Mexploitation" by its director, Robert Rodriguez, a spinoff of a fake trailer in Rodriguez's earlier film "Grindhouse" that promises to be equally liberal with the blood and guts (at one point, the hero is said to escape from a hospital using tripas - yes, intestines - for rope). And while all I've seen are the trailers, the film appears to laugh at itself the entire way through.