Bianca Alatorre is not a fan of the overpowering smell of chemicals in nail salons. "Just being in there for me is really hard," she said.
But as Alatorre sat for a manicure at Nancy's Nails on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, she noticed something different.
She sniffed the air — and.... "Nothing."
To improve air quality, the salon owners had opened the front and rear doors, letting fumes from glue and nail polish out, as the sounds of traffic and sidewalk chatter rolled in.
It's one of the steps that Nancy's Nails has taken as the California Healthy Nail Salons Collaborative. The nonprofit program works to improve health conditions at manicure shops, the vast majority of which are run by Vietnamese immigrants.
"In California, 60 to 80 percent of the 97,000 nail salon workers are of Vietnamese descent," said Duyen Tran, a Vietnamese-speaking educator with the collaborative.
Santa Monica, home to about 30 nail salons, is the first city in Southern California to partner with the collaborative.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he delivers his State of the Union address on Jan. 24, 2012. This week, Obama defended his immigration record during a Washington, D.C. town hall meeting after a prominent immigrant advocate referred to him as "deporter-in-chief."
Obama: ‘I’m the champion-in-chief’ on immigration reform - Washington Post In a town hall meeting with Latinos on Thursday, President Obama pushed back against immigrant advocates who recently called him "deporter-in-chief." Obama defended his immigration record: "Since I ran for president, I've pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, and I will continue to push," Obama said. "I am the champion-in-chief of comprehensive immigration reform. But until Congress passes new laws, I am constrained in what I am able to do."
Florida Supreme Court: Immigrants in the U.S. illegally cannot be lawyers in Florida - Orlando Sentinel The Florida Supreme Court has decided that it will not allow law school graduates who are in the U.S. illegal to practice law. From the story: "Last year, the court ruled that a specific immigrant and Florida State University law school graduate, Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, a citizen of Mexico who had passed Florida's Bar examination, could not be admitted but put off the larger issue." The decision bars others like him from admission.
LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images
A demonstrator hits a pot in protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in San Antonio, in the border state of Tachira, Venezuela, on February 25, 2014.
One year ago this week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died after battling cancer. His successor, former vice-president Nicolas Maduro, was democratically elected in April by a narrow margin. The new president inherited a long list of problems: an unraveling economy, rampant crime, inflation, and decreasing living standards.
In recent weeks, protesters have been voicing their grievances in the streets. The protests have grown violent as authorities have cracked down. So far, a reported 18 people have died in confrontations.
In the U.S., many of the Venezuelan immigrants who have long opposed their native country's government are reacting and speaking out.
"We were fed up with this government because of all the things, the situation piling up," said Flor Trocones, a Brentwood visual artist who came here from Venezuela 28 years ago. "The violent crimes, the scarcity, the lack of justice with all the things that are happening, the violation of human rights every day. We just got to a point that, no more."
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
As California officials work on rolling out driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants next year, some immigrants remain skeptical about revealing their personal information in order to apply. The new licenses are to look slightly different from standard ones, further fueling mistrust.
Dems expected to move forward with discharge petition on immigration - Washington Post House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a radio interview Tuesday that "a decision will be made in the next few days about whether to forge ahead with a discharge petition designed to force a House vote on immigration reform." But the tactic may not work, as it would still require several Republicans to sign on in order to force a House vote on a reform bill.
California Driver’s License Program Hits an Unexpected Hurdle - New York Times A recent community forum in Bell, Calif. brought to light one big obstacle as California officials work on rolling out driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants next year: mistrust of the government. Some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally fear that if they apply for licenses and reveal their personal information, it could someday be used against them.
David McNew/Getty Images
President Obama's proposed 2015 budget includes a proposal to ensure that unauthorized immigrants don't improperly obtain Medicare benefits, which they are generally barred from.
Crackdown Proposed to Prevent Illegal Immigrants From Obtaining Medicare - New York Times President Obama's proposed 2015 budget includes a proposal "to remove illegal immigrants from the Medicare rolls and explicitly require citizenship or lawful presence in the United States as a condition of getting Medicare." The step comes after a discovery "tens of thousands were improperly receiving benefits," although a 1996 law generally bars unauthorized immigrants from doing so.
Diversity at the Oscars: Is Hollywood coming around? - Southern California Public Radio Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony included several firsts, including the first Best Director award won by a Mexican and the first Best Picture winner with a director of African descent. The Academy has long been criticized for overlooking artists of color. Some critics are cautiously optimistic that the tide may be turning.