How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Border series explores economic and other facets of illegal immigration


Photo by Andrew Hecht/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Farm workers near the Central California coast.

In light of the revitalized debate over illegal immigration in recent months, colleagues at San Diego's public radio and television outlet KPBS have put together a terrific series tackling various components of the illegal immigration story.

This past week, Crossing the Line: Border Stories featured radio and television reports examining the economic costs vs. benefits of illegal immigration, one of the most hotly debated issues surrounding the topic; a radio interview with a one-time undocumented immigrant from Oaxaca, now working on an irrigation project for his hometown in the hope that it will create jobs and entice people to stay put; another radio report on how some kids' lives have unraveled after their parents were deported. Earlier this month, there was a report on demographic shifts that stand to affect immigration from Mexico. Transcripts and clips are online.


While eyes are on Phoenix, a grim story unfolds to the south

Border fence at Imperial Sand Dunes, California

Photo by Eric White/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A stretch of border fence through the desert, Imperial Sand Dunes, California.

As the news media prepares to focus on Phoenix next week, when the state's controversial SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law is set to take effect, a grim aspect of the illegal immigration story is unfolding to the south.

Several Arizona media outlets reported last week that by mid-July, the bodies of 40 illegal border crossers had been brought to the office of the Pima County Medical Examiner in Tucson, so many that some of the bodies had to be stored in a refrigerated truck for lack of space. Officials there said that if the trend continues, the deaths could top the single-month record of 68 in July 2005, the highest number since the medical examiner's office began tracking them in 2000.


The legacy of a border road sign

Immigration Debate Reaches Crescendo Ahead Of Bush Speech

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A sign warning motorists to beware of people crossing the highway is seen on Interstate 5, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro, California in 2006.

Driving back and forth between Los Angeles and San Diego when I moved south several years ago, these old road signs along Interstate 5 began to catch my eye on a regular basis. The signs, illustrated by Caltrans artist John Hood, date back to the early 1990s, when the California-Mexico border was the nation's biggest funnel for illegal immigration traffic headed north, and human smugglers were hustling their charges across the freeway to evade checkpoints - all too often with tragic results. Pretty soon, I began seeing the image everywhere: on T-shirts, on coffee mugs, on little mini-road signs with the characters carrying surfboards. The more I searched, the more interpretations I found: murals,


In the news this morning

With Arizona's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law set to take effect next week - and legal challenges to the measure being heard in court - much of the news this morning is out of Arizona.

  • The Tucson Sentinel posted this update last night on the SB 1070 hearings taking place in Phoenix, in which arguments were heard yesterday in two of the lawsuits challenging the law, including a federal government challenge on constitutional grounds.
  • The Los Angeles Times has this story on the economic fallout of undocumented immigrants leaving Arizona out of fear of SB 1070.
  • Fox News reports on a Latino GOP group announcing its support of the Arizona measure.
  • Spin has an interview with guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, which is reuniting for a show tonight at the Hollywood Palladium with proceeds to benefit two Arizona immigrant rights groups.
  • Several publications are now following yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune story pointing to a particular Utah state employee as a possible culprit in that state’s immigration hit list scandal.
  • The Wall Street Journal's legal blog is reporting on a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union over a Nebraska town’s anti-illegal immigration housing ordinance.
  • Finally, in the latest issue of the New Yorker, William Finnegan challenges some of political claims made about border crime and Border Patrol apprehensions.