How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Video: Boyle Heights' Wyvernwood apartments

The Los Angeles Conservancy has produced a video that tells the story of Boyle Heights' historic and unusual Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a sprawling 70-acre complex built in the late 1930s where generations of immigrants have raised generations of Angelenos.

The complex, which I visited a while back, is unique in that its buildings are set among vast grassy fields, giving the place a sense of space and breathability while housing about 6,000 residents. It's an anomaly in Los Angeles, especially in this dense part of the city.

Regrettably, the complex faces the wrecking ball. The Florida-based investment company that owns it announced plans in 2008 for a $2 billion redevelopment in that would replace its 1,187 existing units with 4,400 condominiums and apartments, including high-rises, and retail space. The developer has said that demolition is not imminent, but residents have mounted a resistance.

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Laptop art: Dream Act students' computers

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


Spending time with college students while they call legislators in support of the Dream Act has also meant spending time with their laptops, as many juggle school work with their activism on a bill that would grant conditional legal status to undocumented students – including some of those making the calls – and military hopefuls. A Senate vote could take place as early as this week.

While working near several students last week at a makeshift phone bank in downtown Los Angeles, the sticker art on several of their laptops caught my eye. Here are a few snapshots:

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Q&A: Catching up with Arthur Mkoyan, now in college, but still in immigration limbo

Last week, when college students invested in the Dream Act gathered around the country to anxiously watch the results of voting in the House and Senate, one of those on the edge of his seat was Arthur Mkoyan. The Armenian-American former high school valedictorian from Fresno made national headlines two summers ago when, as he prepared to graduate, he and his parents were arrested by immigration authorities. A deportation date was set for shortly after his graduation.

In June 2008, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private bill that granted them a temporary reprieve. Mkoyan is now 20 and in college. But his immigration status remains in limbo, since private bills rarely succeed. The family arrived on temporary visas when he was four years old. Mkoyan's father, a government worker in his native country, felt threatened after exposing corruption where he worked, and they applied for asylum. But the application was denied several years ago. Without further intervention, Mkoyan and his parents could again find themselves in deportation proceedings in the future.

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In the news this morning: King's immigration plans, Dream Act questions and more

King Outlines Immigration Plans for 2011 - New York Times Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the Republican who is expected to lead the main subcommittee on immigration in the House of Representatives next year, promises to crack down on employers, among other things.


Daniel Altschuler: Key Questions as DREAM Debate Heats Up - Huffington Post For starters, does the legislation even have a chance? These and other questions surrounding the Dream Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or join the military.


Lawmakers Engage in Lengthy “Twitter-busters” on DREAM Act, Tax Cuts - Fox News More on the "tweet war" involving Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County vs. Dream Act supporters.

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American snapshot: San Diego

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A street sign near the city's harbor is a reminder of a long-ago immigrant past, November 2010

The city that I called home for several years is best known as a border town, but its lesser-known immigrant history also takes in two thriving Portugese-speaking communities.

The harbor-area San Diego neighborhood of Point Loma attracted Portuguese immigrants to its tuna-fishing industry in the early part of the last century, and their influence remains visible today. So does their language, which has helped make the city a comfortable landing spot for more recent immigrants from Brazil.

Why mention this? The house I lived in is just a few blocks from Avenida de Portugal. It's a tiny street in Point Loma that is still home to a Portuguese community center and chapel. I walked past this little cultural outpost often, most recently while in town packing to relocate my household to Los Angeles. I'll miss it, as I'll miss many things, now that the moving truck is en route up I-5.

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