How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

MTA considers major makeover for Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights

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The entrance to the Mariachi Plaza Gold Line station.

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A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza.

Boyle Heights Google Map

Google Maps

Mariachi plaza is located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.

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Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background.

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Some of the small businesses lining Mariachi Plaza; according to MTA officials, plans to develop the plaza would involve razing a structure that houses existing businesses to make way for new retail and medical office development.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

An ice cream shop on Mariachi Plaza sells tejuino, a sweet fermented corn drink.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A lunchtime customer orders at the Santa Cecilia Restaurant, one of the small businesses lining Mariachi Plaza.


The iconic Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights has already seen its share of changes. Decades ago, there was little more than a hotel and a donut shop. Outside, musicians gathered waiting for work. Five years ago, a Metro Gold Line station opened, bringing foot traffic - and talk of creeping gentrification - as nearby downtown development took off.

Now the plaza could be further transformed, if the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approves plans for approximately 120,000 square feet of retail and office space surrounding it.

Long-dormant plans by the MTA to develop the plaza - stemming from the days before the real estate bust and recession - were revived late last year. Now they are taking shape, with a proposed site plan unveiled last week.

The MTA’s planning committee recommended earlier this week that the board approve an agreement with a developer to build 70,000 square feet of retail space surrounding the plaza, along with 50,000 square feet of medical offices.

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California DMV to offer immigrant drivers multiple ways to prove their identity

California Report

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Students at Orange County's Mexican consulate study the California Driver Handbook. With AB-60, California joins 10 other states in allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.

Under proposed new rules, immigrants in the country illegally will be offered multiple ways to prove their identity when applying for a driver's license.

The most simple path for applicants is to provide the California Department of Motor Vehicles  with traditional forms of ID. For example, Mexican immigrants need only show a Mexican passport or a Mexican consular card. The DMV says that both can be electronically verified with the Mexican government.

But if applicants are missing those documents, it's not a deal-breaker. They will still be able to apply if they provide multiple documents proving both identification and residency.

Acceptable documents range from birth certificates to marriage licenses and mortgage bills. Officials provided a form listing all of the options to meet the identity and California residency requirements. 

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In immigration news: Executive action, 'fugitive operations,' driver's licenses, more

Immigrant Driver's licenses

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Sergio Lopez, a member of the Caolition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, testifies before state officials on a law that allows immigrants without legal status to apply for driver's licenses.

Corker hits fellow Republicans over immigration - Associated Press Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday took his own party to task for its stance on immigration. He said some GOP members had launched "political attacks against those trying to overhaul immigration laws," according to the story.  Corker spoke in Columbia, S.C.: "I just hope that we don’t let demagogues prevail, and that we finally deal with this issue and put it behind us." Like other Republicans such as House Speaker Boehner, Corker was highly critical, however, of President Obama taking executive action on immigration.

Immigrants eager for presidential action on deportations - Boston Globe Immigrants like Moises Herrera, an immigrant from El Salvador, live under the constant threat of deportation. From the story: "The minivan-driving father from El Salvador has no criminal record, but for years he has cycled in and out of detention for civil immigration violations, including last month, when he was in Suffolk County jail instead of the delivery room where his son was born." But Herrera's hopeful that his life will change if the president issues an executive order.

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Typhoon Haiyan: Filipino-Americans keep up relief efforts, 1 year later

Typhoon Haiyan One Year Later

Theresa Canete

Theresa Canete, an accountant from West Covina, traveled back to the Philippines to bring supplies and organize a medical fair for typhoon survivors.

Typhoon Haiyan One Year Later

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Robert Aguilos of Cerritos was in Tacloban the day after Haiyan made landfall. He had intended to surprise his father on his birthday. Instead, he ended up looking for him and his mother.

Typhoon Haiyan One Year Later

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Edwin Tiu, a respiratory therapist from Lakewood, lost his older brother to the typhoon.

Tacloban Memorial Mass

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A parishioner at St. Philomena Church in Carson, Calif. kneels as Mass begins Nov. 13, 2013.

Tacloban Memorial Mass

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Emilito David of Pomona holds a box for donations at a memorial and fundraising mass in St. Philomena Church in Carson, Calif on Nov. 13, 2013.


Robert Aguilos, a nursing manager from Cerritos, flew back to the Philippines to surprise his father on his 85th birthday. He ended up arriving a day after one of history's deadliest storms made landfall.

Desperate to find his parents, he and a brother hitched a ride on a military plane from Manila to his hometown of Tacloban. They walked for hours, and saw children playing in debris. People huddled over fires. Corpses, scattered afield. Finally, he spotted his parents' house — its roof ripped off – but there was a light.  

"A candelight," Aguilos said, his voice wavering. "The brightest candle I ever saw. One candle illumined the place. And I saw the silhouette of my dad."

His family, his roots — they’re in the Philippines. So while the memory of the typhoon has ebbed from the world's consciousness a year later, Aguilos and other members of Southern California's Filipino-American community — the country's largest — have kept up relief efforts.

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In immigration news: GOP leaders warn Obama on executive action, Latino and Asian voters in the midterms, more

John Boehner Holds Media Briefing At US Capitol

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House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders are warning President Obama of consequences if Obama takes solo action on immigration.

Boehner warns Obama will ‘burn himself’ with exec action on immigration - Fox News House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders are warning President Obama to back away from taking executive action on immigration. Boehner reportedly told Obama on Thursday 'that he's 'going to burn himself' and 'poison the well' if he goes down that path. The warning comes ahead of a major summit at the White House where Obama will meet Friday with congressional leaders of both parties."

Orange County Senate, Assembly victories could signal shift in GOP's relationship with Asian-Americans - Southern California Public Radio The victories of Janet Nguyen in the 34th state Senate District and Young Kim in the 65th Assembly District over Democratic rivals could signal a shift in the Orange County political landscape – and more broadly, in the GOP’s relationship with Asian-Americans, who as recently as 2012 were seen as moving steadily left.

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