How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

LA libraries set to help applicants with Obama immigration plan

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Mayor Eric Garcetti, right, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke Thursday at the Los Angeles Central Library, in advance of the Feb. 18 kickoff of the Obama administration's executive immigration plan. Garcetti said the city is committing resources toward assisting immigrants who seek to apply. Librarians will be trained to provide information to those seeking temporary legal status and work permits.

Los Angeles public libraries want to be free information centers for immigrants seeking temporary legal status under President Obama's executive plan.

City libraries have for a couple of years had "Citizenship Corners," where people can obtain information about applying for U.S. citizenship. Now, librarians are being trained to help guide immigrants through the process of applying for deportation protection and work permits.

Library officials said immigrants will be able to go the city's 73 libraries for details on where and how to apply. They'll also be able to look up applications online, attend informational forums, and get referrals to legal help.

It's part of a broader city effort to assist immigrants, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday.

Speaking at the Los Angeles Central Library, Garcetti that the city has committed about $10 million in city resources to help implement the federal plan. He said that will be matched by another $10 million from foundations and nonprofits.

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In immigration news: Capitol sit-ins, a not-so-diverse LA City Council, immigrant driver's licenses, more

City Hall

Alice Walton/KPCC

Los Angeles is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world and half its residents are women. But out of 15 City Council members, 14 are men. There are only four Latinos on the dais, and no Asian Americans.

Immigration Protests Return to Hill, Activists Convene on Exec Action - NBC News Immigrant rights activists staged sit-ins in House and Senate members' offices on Wednesday. From the story: "The protests coincided with a House subcommittee hearing on several enforcement bills and targeted Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama's immigration executive action. The House passed a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that includes amendments ending deportation deferrals for young immigrants who arrived or stayed here illegally and blocking expansions of those deferrals."

Election 2015: In a diverse city, a not-so-diverse City Council - Southern California Public Radio Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, but you wouldn't know it from looking at a roster of its elected city leaders. Out of 15 City Council members, 14 are men. There are only four Latinos on the dais. As for Asian-Americans, there aren't any. The first and so far only Asian-American to hold a council seat did so more than two decades ago.

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Election 2015: In a diverse city, a not-so-diverse City Council

City Hall

Alice Walton/KPCC

The population of Los Angeles is half female, almost half Latino, and roughly 12 percent Asian. But it's not reflected in City Hall: Out of 15 City Council members, only one is a woman. There are only four Latinos, and no Asian Americans.

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world: Nearly half Latino, roughly 12 percent Asian. Half its residents are women. But you wouldn't know it from looking at a roster of its elected city leaders.

Out of 15 City Council members, 14 are men. There are only four Latinos on the dais. As for Asian-Americans, there aren't any.

The first and so far only Asian-American to hold a council seat, Michael Woo, did so more than two decades ago.

There is diverse mix of candidates running in the March 3 primary: There are a dozen women, and Latinos are well-represented. Some are children of immigrant parents, or immigrants themselves — the same holds true for some current council members.

But there are still only three Asian-Americans, including one candidate of Mexican and Japanese descent.

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In immigration news: A long wait for some childhood arrivals, Homeland Security funding, more

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors but were too old to qualify for deferred action in 2012 will soon be able to seek temporary immigration relief. They include people like Jesus Cortez, who arrived in the U.S. illegally when he was nine years old. He's earned a master's degree, but has been working as a gardener since he was in his teens.

Republicans at odds over immigration - The Hill On the ongoing fight over a House bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security, but seeks to undo the Obama administration's executive immigration plan. From the story: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday the House will have to pass a new bill because the Senate can’t pass the House’s initial legislation, which would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shielding millions from deportation." Homeland Security is funded only through Feb. 27.

For some childhood arrivals, a long wait for legal status - Southern California Public Radio Next week, immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors but didn't qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be able to apply for temporary immigration relief. Some failed to qualify in 2012 because they were over the cutoff age of 30. Among these are U.S.-educated people who have been working beneath their skill and educational legal.

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For some childhood arrivals, a long wait for legal status

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Jesus Cortez mows a customer's lawn in Orange County. He's hoping he can put his college education to use if he qualifies for immigration relief under the Obama administration's new immigration plan. He's earned a master's degree, but was too old to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Jesus Cortez arrived in the U.S. illegally when he was nine years old. He's been working as a gardener since he was in his teens, while putting himself through college and graduate school.


Jesus Cortez has been mowing lawns for a living in Orange County since he was a teenager.

"You know, we mow the lawn, we make sure it's cleaned up, you know, whatever people want," he said. "We trim trees, we blow the leaves."

It's a job that he is vastly overqualified for. 

“I have a degree in Chicano studies, another one in English, and I have a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on social and cultural analysis," said Cortez, 35. "I could teach at a private school, or I could teach in community college. 

He doesn't -- in fact he can't -- because he doesn't have legal status.

He's been in the United States since his family brought him here at the age of 9.

A succession of legalization efforts have washed through. But so far, legislation that would legalize his status has failed or he's been too old to qualify for policies that help younger immigrants who came as minors. So he’s kept doing what he’s always done, working under the table.

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