How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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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In immigration news: DHS funding battle, executive action rollout, Cubans fear deportation for crimes, more

Ted Robbins/NPR

A U.S. Border Patrol truck patrols the fence separating the cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora. Congress continues to battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until the end of this month.

At stake in immigration debate: Billions of dollars - Politico Congress is still fighting over funding the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Part of the battle are costly demands. From the story: "Immigration riders attached to the Homeland Security spending bill by the House GOP turn out to actually widen the budget deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the $39.7 billion measure will need a supermajority of 60 votes under Senate budget rules, even if Republicans get past the Democratic filibuster."

Cubans Convicted in the U.S. Face New Fears of Deportation - New York Times Now that the United States is moving to normalize relations with Cuba, one request the Obama administration is reportedly making is for Cuba to take back nationals convicted of crimes in the U.S. From the story: "The United States cannot deport...the vast majority of the 34,500 other Cubans who face orders of deportation, almost all of them for criminal offenses, because Cuba will not accept them back."

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In immigration news: No legislative overhaul in sight, Homeland Security funding battle, more

US-IMMIGRATION-ICE-JEH JOHNSON

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

In a recent interview, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson called on Congress not to tie his agency's budget to President Obama's executive order on immigration. The agency is funded only through Feb. 27.

No comprehensive immigration reform until 2017? - Arizona Republic The political climate in Congress is a far cry from 2013, when the Senate approved a bipartisan bill to overhaul the immigration system. With President Obama's executive order unpopular with Republicans and bickering over Homeland Security funding, any compromise seems far off. From the story: "Immigration-reform advocates now say their best hope for reforms such as a pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants already in the country hinges on the 2016 elections: A new president will be elected and Democrats have an opportunity to win back the Senate."

Jeh Johnson to Congress: Stop tying immigration fight to DHS funding - Washington Post In an interview, Department of Homeland Secretary called on lawmakers to fun his agency in a way that is "separate and apart" from immigration policies. From the story: "DHS is currently funded through Feb. 27, as Congress continues to fight over a funding bill for the agency. Republicans are seeking to use a new spending bill to punish President Obama for his executive actions on immigration. Democrats are blocking GOP efforts to roll back the president’s actions."

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