How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A new county contract for Homeboy Industries

Photo by teamperks/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Outside Homeboy Industries downtown, March 2008

I couldn't let the day slip by without noting the good news today for Homeboy Industries. After having to lay off 300 workers in May, the gang-intervention program that got its start 22 years ago in Boyle Heights has received a $1.3 million contract from Los Angeles County.

The contract was approved today by the county Board of Supervisors. It will allow the nonprofit program, an Eastside institution, to employ 20 job trainees and provide services to at-risk youth and young adults that include job placement, tattoo removal, legal services, job training and therapy, including mental health and substance abuse counseling, according to a story on KPCC.

The contract provides a new lifeline for Homeboy Industries, founded in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest. The program laid off the bulk of its workers in May, its finances hurt as local government redirected funding toward other gang-intervention programs and the recession ate into private donations. Its businesses stayed open - among them a cafe, a bakery, and a silk-screening shop - but volunteers were left to perform the re-entry services, which the country contract will now help cover.

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Video: A long-forgotten chapter of illegal immigration

The University of Texas at Austin has been producing an excellent series of online videos called Border Views, which I discovered today thanks to the equally excellent Tejas-based website Latina Lista. The videos feature academics from the university sharing their particular expertise on immigration history, politics, and how the topic plays in the media, among other things. The range of disciplines they come from - history, politics, psychology, law, journalism and anthropology - make for an interesting mix of perspectives.

I especially enjoyed the video above, posted today by Latina Lista, in which history professor Madeline Hsu discusses how Chinese undocumented immigrants - banned from legal entry by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act - posed as Mexicans to cross into the United States via the southern border. How times have changed.

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'Somos Muchos' car sticker campaign an interesting social experiment

Photo by wung/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Outside a local Toyota dealership, March 2007

When I first heard about a clever Toyota Latino-marketing sticker campaign last week, with free window stickers distributed to consumers that read "Somos Muchos (fill in the Latin American country or region), Somos Muchos Toyota," (Translation: We are many TK, we are many Toyota), I was no more impressed than I ever am with the usual Latino marketing campaign.

And I'm still not, at least not so much by the campaign itself. But the response on a Facebook page set up by Toyota to distribute the stickers - and "get the community together," as a local Toyota dealership spokeswoman told me today - is what is proving to be most intriguing.

The vast majority of the Facebook wall comments are what the company might have expected: "Soy Ecuatoriano!" one man wrote. And another: "Somos muchos latinos, somos muchos mexicanos!!" Some express gratitude for their stickers (written phonetically in accented English by some as "esticker"), talk about their cars, and cheer for their ancestral homelands, geographic regions and hometowns (i.e. "Somos muchos chilangos...!!!").

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