How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

City candidates reveal increasingly diverse L.A.

Art by Eric Fischer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A color-coded ethnicity map of the Los Angeles area, based on older census data

Today's municipal elections in Los Angeles and other local cities happen to coincide with the scheduled release this afternoon of 2010 Census data for California, which will show us the racial and ethnic breakdown of the state and how it has changed since ten years ago.

The census data is just beginning to roll out, but the roster of candidates for Los Angeles City Council, and for council seats in surrounding cities, is a good indication of what the face of Southern California looks like. On the L.A. ballot alone are eight immigrants, along with others who are the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

  • Council District 2, which covers much of the far eastern and southeastern portions of the San Fernando Valley, is represented by incumbent Paul Krekorian, who is Armenian American. He is running against businessman Augusto Bisani, an Italian immigrant who was born in Rome and arrived here in 1968.

  • In Council District 4, a central district stretching from Koreatown into Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood and North Hollywood, incumbent and Silver Lake native Tom LaBonge, whose L.A. family roots date to the 1800s, is running against two immigrants. Tomás O'Grady, a businessman and environmental activist, is a native of Ireland who came to the United States in 1990. Stephen Box, a producer and transportation activist, is a recently naturalized immigrant from Australia.

  • Council District 6, which covers much of the San Fernando Valley, is represented by Pacoima-born council member Tony Cardenas. He is running against other candidates of Latino descent, website developer Rich Goodman, whose bio describes him as coming from a "multicultural Mexican American family," and code enforcement official David Barron, whose father was born in Mexico City. A fourth candidate, businessman James "Jamie" Cordaro, is third-generation Italian American.

  • In Council District 8, which covers Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, West Adams and other parts of South Los Angeles, incumbent and former police chief Bernard Parks is running against two other African American candidates, nonprofit CEO Forescee Hogan-Rowles and firefighter Jabari S. Jumaane.

  • South L.A's shifting demographics are more evident in neighboring Council District 10, a traditionally African American district whose population makeup has changed in recent years as immigrants move in. Four African American candidates, among them incumbent Herb Wesson, Jr., crime victim advocate Althea Rae Shaw (the aunt of slain high school football star Jamiel Shaw, Jr.), employment specialist Austin Dragon and businessman Chris Brown, are joined on ballot by Andrew Kim, a Korean-born civil rights and immigration lawyer, and Luis Montoya, an L.A.-raised Latino whose family runs a Christmas tree lot.

  • Council District 12 in the far northwestern portion of the ethnically diverse San Fernando Valley was represented by City Council member Greig Smith, who is retiring. Among the half-dozen candidates competing for the seat are two immigrants from India, businessman Dinesh "Danny" Lakhanpal and Navraj Singh, a restaurateur and formerly a captain in the Indian army, and Armineh Chelebian, a neighborhood council member who arrived with her family from Iran when she was a teenager. They are joined by two Valley natives, Smith's chief of staff Mitchell Englander and Brad Smith, a neighborhood council member and former journalist, and by real estate broker and longtime Valley resident Kelly Lord.


Snow sports industry reacts candidly to Utah's guest worker plan

Photo by Tom Kelly/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Park City, Utah's Deer Valley resort at night, February 2011

The snow sports website published an editorial today praising Utah's state legislature for approving a bill that would grant two-year work permits to undocumented workers, provided they pay fines and can prove they have been living and working in the state.

What's most interesting about the piece is its candor:

Winter and summer tourist promoters feared passage of "Arizona-style" bills that take a hard line on persons living in the United States without proper documentation.

In Utah, as in many tourist states, such immigrants come looking for work and fill essential though menial positions at many resorts, like cleaning rooms.

The piece goes on:
Anyone who stays at a Rocky Mountain winter resort has likely seen the proliferation of Spanish-speaking employees, particularly those from Mexico, in recent years. However, mountain resorts in Utah and elsewhere don't reveal how many undocumented workers are employed in their lodges, restaurants and other facilities - if they even know.

Evidence of their concern, however, was revealed by the intensity with which tourism and farm industries lobbied for passage of bills that would grant some legal status to such workers.


In the news this morning: Utah guest worker plan to face challenges, Latino job insecurity, proponent defends Muslim hearings, more

Utah immigration plan could stir legal storm - USA Today As much at it's a departure from the stricter immigration legislation approved in Arizona last year, Utah's newly approved guest worker bill will most likely wind up in federal court also if it becomes law. It was one of two state bills, the other calling for tighter enforcement, that could soon face legal challenges.

Latinos lack job security despite increase in hiring - Fox News Latino A report from the National Council of La Raza finds that while there has been job growth in sectors employing large numbers of Latinos, this population faces greater job insecurity.

Washington Senate Votes Down Driver's License Ban for Undocumented Immigrants - Fox News Latino A bill that would have restricted access to driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and punished identification fraud was voted down Monday in Washington's state senate.


More Dream Act students prepare to 'come out'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Student Dream Act supporters react after the Senate vote tally is read, December 18, 2010

This week, some undocumented students, graduates and others are expected to reprise the actions of other student activists last year with a risky move: going public with their immigration status.

The strategy gained popularity last year among young supporters of the Dream Act, proposed legislation that would have granted conditional legal status to qualifying young people who attend college or join the military. The measure cleared the House last December, but failed to make it through the Senate.

This year, several Dream Act advocacy groups and websites have been promoting what's being called "National Coming Out of the Shadows" week between March 14-21, kicking off with a "coming out" day this Thursday, March 10. Sites like have been seeking coming-out stories via Twitter and posting them. From one posted today: