How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Boyle Heights, the 'Ellis Island of the West Coast'

Today's Patt Morrison show on KPCC featured a segment on one of my favorite Los Angeles neighborhoods, Boyle Heights.

The neighborhood has been a part of my life since childhood, having grown up not far away in Huntington Park. We shopped at the Sears on Olympic Boulevard, took our sick to White Memorial Medical Center on Cesar Chavez Avenue. For all its problems, this is a part of town that holds memories for many an Eastside-raised Angeleno. The show dedicated a special interactive web page to the Boyle Heights segment, with video and other elements, and this description:

It’s the Ellis Island of the West Coast, the community in which the first immigrants from a myriad of different ethnic and religious groups settled and one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Boyle Heights, at one time home to Jewish and Japanese immigrants and now predominantly Latino, is the focal point for how the city of Los Angeles has served low income families and whether future development will protect those most vulnerable residents.

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Angelenos and Angeleños in the age of the Korean taco

Photo by Ron Reiring/Flickr (Creative Commons)


And while those of us there didn't come away with any clear answer, we did come away with some great ideas and insightful observations from both the audience and the panelists.

The idea for the panel came out of a piece written a couple of months ago by Southern California author D.J. Waldie on the disappearance of the Spanish consonant ñ, pronounced “enye,” from "Angeleños" in the late 19th century as eastern and midwestern migrants came west, diluting and eventually burying the city's Spanish-speaking identity.

But with all of the demographic changes that have occurred in Los Angeles since, a discussion of the city's evolving identity today seemed in order. Waldie joined me on the panel, as did Eric Avila, an associate professor of Chicano studies, history and urban planning at UCLA.

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The private prison industry's immigration boom

Photo by antonychammond/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Rina Palta of Multi-American's sister blog The Informant, which covers crime and courts in the Bay Area, has pulled together some good recent reports on the business of immigrant detention, for-profit private prison companies that contract with the federal government to hold immigrants who are awaiting or fighting their deportation.

The post cited a particularly good detailed story in Business Week, which described profits earned by industry leader Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and competitors:

Tougher policies have been good for CCA. Since the company started winning immigrant detention contracts in 2000, its stock has rebounded from about a dollar to $23.33, attracting investors such as William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, which is now its largest shareholder.

CCA has current contracts with ICE and other federal clients, as well as 19 state prison systems. Its largest competitor, the Geo Group (GEO), is slightly smaller, and together they account for more than $3 billion in gross revenues annually. The next-largest player, MTC, is privately held and does not disclose numbers, but the industry as a whole grosses just under $5 billion per year.

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In the news this morning: Muslim civil rights, North African migrants, 'Ugly Betty' star plays undocumented immigrant, more

Senators decry anti-Muslim violence - USA Today Republican and Democratic senators at a hearing on anti-Muslim discrimination Tuesday agreed that bullying, violence or workplace harassment of Muslims is not acceptable.

Tensions Rise in Lampedusa As Immigrant Influx Continues - Voice of America The local population of the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is protesting and there are fears of violence as North African migrants fleeing unrest at home continue to arrive.

America Ferrera talks about playing an illegal immigrant on 'The Good Wife' - Los Angeles Times She plays Natalie Flores, the undocumented former nanny of a political candidate.

Girl, 4, reunited with family after possible communications mix-up - CNN Emily Ruiz, the U.S. citizen child who wound up deported to Guatemala, flew back to the United States on Wednesday for a tearful reunion with her parents and younger brother.

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From 'The Good Earth' to 'Akira:' White actors, non-white roles

Photo by Fotographia Guerilla/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A Hollywood casting controversy has been gathering steam lately, not because there is anything particularly new at its core, but because there isn't. It involves the casting of white actors in non-white roles, something that has been happening for decades and is not, on its face, much of a surprise. The surprising thing is that it's still happening in 2011.

The film in question is an adaptation of the Japanese science-fiction manga series Akira, which was made into an animated film in 1988. Last week, Deadline New York posted a short list of the actors who had received scripts for the live action film project.

For the role one of the lead characters, Tetsuo, on the list were "Twilight" vampire/heartthrob Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, and James McAvoy. Actors receiving scripts for the role of another lead character, Kaneda, were Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix.

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