How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

For younger Cambodian Americans, a narrowing education gap

Cambodian students - 2

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.

Cambodian students - 5

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.

Cambodian students - 4

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.


In immigration news: High-skilled worker visa debate, war criminals in the US, 'sanctuary cities,' more

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Mario Avila, left, and Eduardo Estrada hold up a banner memorializing Guatemala's wartime "desaparecidos," people who disappeared during the country's 36-year civil war. They and other Los Angeles-area Guatemalans celebrated the conviction of suspected Guatemalan war criminal Jorge Sosa on immigration fraud charges in 2013. In a more recent case in Florida, an immigration appeals panel has upheld the deportation order for an accused war criminal from El Salvador. U.S. authorities say many of these suspected war criminals flee their home countries along with other refugees, and hide in plain sight in the U.S.

GOP divided on immigration changes - The Hill On opposition to a Senate bill that would increase the number of high-skilled work visas made available to foreign workers. One stiff opponent is Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who says the bill doesn't prioritize U.S. workers. From the story: "During a hearing Tuesday, Grassley made it clear that he believes the bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which has high-profile co-sponsors including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), 'only makes the problem worse.'"

War Criminals Next Door: Immigration Division Brings Violators To Justice - NPR An immigration appeals panel has upheld a deportation order against Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former Salvadoran defense minister "who is alleged to have presided over human rights violations in that country, including the murders of four American churchwomen in 1980." The case highlights how suspected war criminals seek shelter in the United States, and how immigration officials manage to root them out. Many hide in plain sight.


In immigration news: White House pushes court on executive action, LA cop arrested at border, tech diversity, more

Executive Action Workshop

Josie Huang/KPCC

More than a thousand people crowded the Los Angeles Convention Center late last year for a workshop related to President Obama's executive immigration order, signed in November. The order could give temporary legal status to millions of immigrants. It was put on hold in February by a federal judge in Texas, who ruled on a multi-state lawsuit filed by opponents. The White House is urging an appeals court to lift the order blocking the immigration plan from moving forward.

White House makes aggressive legal push on immigration - The Hill On the Justice Department's request last week that a federal appeals court lift an order blocking President Obama's executive immigration order from moving forward: "The preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen on Feb. 16 forced the administration to delay the executive actions...The stakes are high. If the court overturns Hanen’s ruling, the Obama administration could begin implementing the programs. But if it sides with the Texas judge, the legal battle could continue, possibly for months."

LAPD Officer Arrested at US-Mexico Border for Alleged Smuggling - NBC 4 A Los Angeles police officer has reportedly been arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border after a person was found hidden in his car. He could face human smuggling charges. From the story: "The officer was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in California. His name was not released, but officials confirmed he was assigned to the LAPD’s Hollywood Division."


In immigration news: Feds ask court to lift block on executive action, evolution of Mexican migration, DACA recipients arrested, more

Immigration Lawsuit

David Zalubowski/AP

A child holds a sign supporting the Obama administration's executive immigration plan during a February news conference in Denver, Colorado. The plan, which could grant temporary legal status to millions of immigrants, was put on hold last month following a decision by a federal judge in Texas. The Obama administration is asking an appeals court to let the plan move forward.

U.S. Government Asks for End to Hold on Immigration Action - Associated Press The federal government has asked an appeals court to allow President Obama's executive immigration order to move forward and lift a temporary block issued by a judge. From the story: "Justice Department attorneys filed an emergency motion with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to lift a preliminary injunction issued last month by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas."

With Relief Programs Stalled, Immigration Activists Keep Focus On Deportations - Huffington Post As immigrant advocates wait for executive action to be resolved in court, one group is "operating a hotline to inform people about the executive actions and collecting stories of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for relief under the stalled policies, but are instead being detained."