How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: Tax season in Downey

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Nadine Subia, foreground, and Benita Romero wave at cars along Firestone Boulevard, January 7, 2010

This Downey income tax office is pure So Cal Americana: a flag-bedecked, immigrant-owned operation whose waving Lady Liberties have last names like Romero and Subia.

The tax office's first waving Statue of Liberty was its Indian-born owner, Dhaval Oza, who donned the costume during tax season after he began running the business five years ago. At first, he said, he was the only one in the office brave enough to stand on the sidewalk in the getup.

"That's how it started," said Oza, who arrived here as a teenager. "We did it because it was different."

Now he and his wife Hiral, who operate the tax office as franchisees, hire others to do the waving between January and April. The Downey office of Liberty Tax Service, one of a nationwide chain, has a clientele that's more or less along the same lines as the southeast L.A. County city's demographics: about half Latino, Oza said, and half everyone else.

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'Multiculturals' on ice (okay, snow)

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Ah Mammoth, powdery and white - in ways that some marketers hope to change. April 2010

A story from ESPN on "multicultural" involvement in snow sports – and a marketing report aimed at getting more skiers and snowboarders of color onto the slopes - has caught my attention, because it's a topic that's close to my heart.

See, I’m a Latina skier. And like other minority skiers and snowboarders, particularly Latinos and African Americans, this makes me a member of a very, very small society.

There are notable exceptions, like Colorado-born pro snowboarder Marc Montoya. Still, according to the story, non-white snow sports participation stands at just 3.4 percent.

The reasons for this are obvious: Lift tickets are expensive, for starters. Even in Big Bear, not exactly world class, a one-day ticket for Bear Mountain runs a wallet-busting $56. It's just a couple of dollars less for a day on the only partially groomed and somewhat dicey slopes of Mt. Baldy (though it's still my favorite winter spot to play hooky). Getting to the mountains requires substantial driving, especially so from a non-snowy place like L.A., and that’s more money.

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In the news this morning: Hmong refugee leader dead, protesting anti-birthright citizenship plans, AZ border trash website, the feeling of h

Vang Pao, Guerilla Fighter and Hmong Leader, Dead at 81 - TIME A hero among Hmong refugees, Vang Pao advocated for refugees and bolstered the resistance movement in Laos. He was arrested a few years ago on charges that he was funding guerrilla fighters back home, later dropped.

Protesters Don’t Let 14th Amendment Rollback Happen Quietly - ColorLines Video from Wednesday's announcement by GOP state leaders of plans to challenge the 14th Amendment and force the denial of U.S. citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

New Website to Draw Attention to Trash at Arizona-Mexico Border - Fox News A new state website aims to draw attention to the trash that is left along the human smuggling routes on the Arizona-Mexico border. It's called Arizona Border Trash, or azbordertrash.gov.

Los Tres Reyes Deliver Gifts to Boyle Heights Families - LA Beez A "floating non-profit" delivered as many gifts as it could to kids from working-poor families.

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Bloggers on the 14th Amendment battle

Photo by Victoria Bernal/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A baby at a May Day rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2010

Those who write about immigration, politics, and the intersection of the two have had quite a bit to work with since Wednesday, when several GOP state legislators announced that they'd be introducing bills at the state level in hopes of forcing a U.S. Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment.

Adopted shortly after the Civil War, the constitutional amendment guarantees U.S. citizenship for everyone who is born in this country. The goal of the anti-birthright citizenship lawmakers is to deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

In one recent post, The New Republic's Adam Serwer highlights a quote from anti-birthright citizenship advocate Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona (from the Washington Times, via ColorLines), pointing out the statement as historically incorrect. Pearce was quoted as saying that the amendment was meant to apply to African Americans and that its sponsors "specifically said it didn't apply to foreigners or aliens." Serwer writes:

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Happy Día de los Reyes Magos

Photo by garlandcannon/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A colorful Three Kings-themed box for a Rosca de Reyes, January 2009

I wondered why the date on the news stories I was reviewing this morning stood out: Jan 6. And then I was reminded that today is Three Kings Day, otherwise known as the Christian holiday of Epiphany, which is celebrated in the Hispanic world as "El Dia de los Reyes Magos."

Which means, of course, that the tradition is widely celebrated in L.A. Latin bakeries around town have been churning out Rosca de Reyes, a ring-like cake (yummy) with a toy baby Jesus baked into it (hard on the teeth) by the truckload.

It's been a quite while since my family officially celebrated Reyes, the last of the twelve days of Christmas and, per Christian tradition, the day on which the Three Kings are supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem at the scene of the Nativity with gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

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