How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Unsolved disappearance of students in Mexico hits uncomfortably close for LA immigrants

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Angel Neri de La Cruz, center, describes to an audience at Cal State Northridge what he witnessed the night fellow that fellow students from his teacher training college went missing in the Mexican city of Iguala, last September 26.

In a crowded auditorium at Cal State Northrige, Angel Neri De La Cruz talked about the night of September 26. That’s when he says he narrowly escaped being killed by gunmen who attacked his fellow students.

"That night, being out on the streets of Iguala was like a death sentence," he said in Spanish.

The students, from a teacher training college in the state of Guerrero, went missing last year after they traveled to Iguala to protest what they said were discriminatory hiring practices for teachers. There, they clashed with police.

Speaking through a translator on Thursday, Neri described how he and others later saw a bloodied and bullet-riddled bus that some students had been traveling in.

"When we tried to enter the bus, from the steps was when we saw all the bloodstains, and blood all over the aisles," he said.


In immigration news: Executive action in court, high-skilled worker visas, AB 60 organ donors, more

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Joe Gratz/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

In a hearing set for Thursday in Brownsville, Texas, federal Justice Department officials are to answer questions about claims that they made misleading statements related to President Obama executive immigration plan. The hearing is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by 26 states against Obama's executive order; a federal judge's decision on the case last month put the immigration plan temporarily on hold.

Hearing Set on Allegations in Immigration Lawsuit - Associated Press In a planned hearing Thursday in Texas, federal Justice Department officials are to answer questions about "claims that they misled a judge about when part of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration was implemented." It's part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by 26 states against Obama's executive order. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen put the plan on hold last month. The claim is that U.S. officials told Hanen that the order had not been implemented, while some Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients had already been processed.

Republicans Ask Court To Keep Obama Immigration Programs Stalled - Huffington Post From the story: "Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) -- along with the the American Center for Law and Justice filed an amicus brief on Wednesday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking it not to lift an injunction on President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions as courts consider a case from 26 states aiming to block the programs." The Obama administration has asked that the court lift the injunction, so that its immigration plan which could grant temporary legal status to millions can proceed. 


In immigration news: 'Specialized' worker visas denied, Cambodian Americans and education, LA County joins executive action lawsuit, more

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Photo by Michael Lockner

Immigration officials are reportedly turning down a growing number of visa requests by U.S. employers for foreign workers with 'specialized knowledge' in their fields. The majority of workers denied have been Indian nationals.

Feds deny more visas for 'specialized' foreign workers - USA Today A growing number of visas for workers with special skills are being turned down. From the story: "About 35% of petitions by American companies to bring to the U.S. employees working overseas who have a 'specialized knowledge' in their fields were denied in 2014 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the fourth straight year that figure has risen. The denial rate for those visas, known as L-1B visas, was as low as 6% in 2006," according to a report. The majority of workers denied have been from India. 

For younger Cambodian Americans, a narrowing education gap - Southern California Public Radio Cambodian Americans have long struggled with an education gap that puts them, along with a few other subgroups, behind the Asian American mainstream. But while their overall high school graduation rates remain low, this is changing as the second generation comes of age. High school graduation rates for U.S.-born Cambodian Americans are above the California state average.


For younger Cambodian Americans, a narrowing education gap

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Susanica Tam for KPCC

Keo Uy, center, watches a volleyball match with fellow United Cambodian Community member Tim Ngoy at Signal Hill Park in Long Beach on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. The UCC group provides resources for its members to have a community and build life skills, with goals that include graduating from school or finding work. As youth coordinator for the group, Uy assist young people who have dropped out of school, as well as younger teens to help them further their education.

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Susanica Tam for KPCC

Members of the United Cambodian Community meet with other outreach groups for a volleyball outing at Signal Hill Park in Long Beach on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.

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Susanica Tam for KPCC

Members of the United Cambodian Community meet with other outreach groups for a volleyball outing at Signal Hill Park in Long Beach on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.

On a cold afternoon at a park in Signal Hill, near Long Beach, a group of young men bundled up in hoodies and baseball caps plays volleyball. 

For a lot of them, the game is a welcome release. Many are struggling. Some are unemployed. Some never finished high school.

Like 20-year-old Tim Ngoy, who dropped out when he was a senior.

“I was involved in, like, I dunno, distractions I guess," Ngoy said. "I kicked it with the wrong people, the wrong crowd. I’d been ditching."

He said he tried home schooling his senior year, "but that didn't work out too well."

Like many of the young men there, Ngoy is the child of Cambodian refugees, raised in Long Beach, home to the nation's largest Cambodian population. His parents came to the U.S. when they were children. Their families fled the Khmer Rouge regime, which terrorized the country in the 1970s.


How Obama's new deportation enforcement program differs from the old one

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Courtesy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo shows an individual being fingerprinted at a local jail facility under the Secure Communities program.

Immigrant advocates say the federal government hasn't provided enough details about a new law enforcement policy that promises to only deport non-U.S. citizens if they are convicted of crimes.  

The new program, referred to as PEP, stands for Priority Enforcement Program. It was announced in November as part of President Obama's executive immigration plan.

Obama has said that PEP is replacing Secure Communities, known as "S-Comm," a controversial program that allowed state and local cops to share the fingerprints of immigrants who are booked locally with immigration agents via a federal database.

When Secure Communities' was first kicked off in 2008, the goal was to find and deport criminals - but critics say it has landed many non-offenders in deportation. Over time, many local law enforcement agencies, including many in California, stopped complying with the program, and eventually Obama announced he would replace it with a better policy.