How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Why Arizona intern Daniel Hernandez's heroism is about much more than that

Much has been made by now of the story of Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year-old intern credited with likely saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after Saturday's assassination attempt and shooting rampage in Tucson. The University of Arizona student ran toward the victims after hearing shots fired, checking the pulses of those on the ground and holding Giffords upright as he applied constant pressure to the wound on her forehead. Even after help arrived, he didn't leave her side. He had been on the job with Giffords' office for five days.

At first, it was simply news that he was heroic. It then became news that he was heroic while also being Latino and gay.

In another place at another time, only the heroism would have mattered. But because this occurred in 2011 in Arizona, where it's no secret that Latinos and gays have felt slighted by some of their political leaders, Hernandez's act of bravery has become as much symbolic as heroic.


After the Tucson shooting, conversation about 'rhetoric' remains tied to immigration

Photo by Tom Peck/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Border fence in Cochise County, AZ

It's a given that the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting that left six dead and critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this weekend in Tucson wasn't acting purely on the political rhetoric coming out of the Grand Canyon State, nor on Sarah Palin's map of congressional districts with crosshairs over them. As with most things, it's much more complicated than that.

But Saturday's tragedy, regardless of the shooter's motive, has opened up a discussion that is still worth having. The incident has led to a national conversation about the political tone that has been coming out of Arizona, and much of that has to do with immigration politics - and, yes, the surrounding rhetoric.

The state is embroiled in controversy over its SB 1070 illegal immigration law, another new law that has essentially banned a Mexican American studies program, and the championing by some conservative political leaders of a national movement to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.


In the news this morning: The Arizona shooting, ethnic studies, birthright citizenship and more

Arizona shooting: Arizona's us-versus-them brand of politics - Los Angeles Times From the story: "Condemnation of the state's tough law on illegal immigration — including boycotts that cost the state millions of dollars — has furthered an us-versus-them attitude among some Arizonans."

Intern's actions may have saved Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's life - USA Today How 20-year-old intern Daniel Hernandez came to Giffords' rescue after the shooting, trying to stop the bleeding from her wound.

Illegal immigration: Can states win fight against 'birthright citizenship'? - CSMonitor Some experts suggest that birthright citizenship could be a difficult target, in part because the 14th Amendment is among the "clearest passages of the Constitution."

Rights groups seeks to block more of Arizona immigration law - Reuters The American Civil Liberties Union and six civil and Hispanic rights' groups seek a preliminary injunction to block two sections of the law targeting day laborers and those who hire them.


Immigration, hate, and the Arizona shooting

Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

How much of a role did the immigration debate and racial-ethnic hatred play in yesterday's devastating shooting in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, among them U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords? The motive of suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughner, described as mentally unstable, is still unclear and may always be. But there are connections to both that continue to develop.

A Department of Homeland Security memo leaked to Fox News pointed to a possible link between Loughner and the radical group American Renaissance, which advocates white supremacy. From the memo published by Fox:

...strong suspicion is being directed at AmRen / American Renaissance. Suspect is possibly linked to this group. (through videos posted on his myspace and YouTube account.). The group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.

Gabrielle Gifford is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate.


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.