How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Ramadan begins


Photo by Ingmar Zahorsky/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Boys at an end-of-Ramadan celebration in Kathmandu, September 2009.

The new moon tonight reminds me that tomorrow marks the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of daytime fasting, prayer and spiritual renewal that is celebrated around the world during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

Among the stories related to Ramadan that I've seen today, this great first-person essay in the Orange County Register stood out, written by a UC Irvine student and accompanied by several photos. The author's take on the observance:

"Personally, Ramadan is more than just about fasting. It's a reset button, a time for self-reflection and contemplation. For me, it's like the start of a new year. I reflect on the months gone by and make goals for the coming year. It gives me an opportunity to empathize with and help the less fortunate as I experience what it feels like to go without food or water during daytime."


El code-switching es normal, experts say

guys talking

Photo by polandeze/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A street conversation in August 2007, languages unspecified.

This afternoon I happened to catch a re-tweet of an interesting post that SpanglishBaby, a website dedicated to bilingual parenting, published a couple of months ago on code-switching. For those who don't call it code-switching, it's that thing that bilingual types, i.e. people like me, do when we're having a conversation, say, with our mother or our cousin or a close comadre or compadre in English, then inexplicably switch to our native language, then switch back.

For bilinguals, code-switching is business as usual. For monolinguals who overhear us as we're jabbering into our cell phones in the produce section at Whole Foods, asking "Should I get the organic fruta bomba?" of the person at the other end, it can be infuriating.


Longest waits for immigrant visas: August

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Source: Visa Bulletin for August 2010, U.S. Department of State

Nations with current longest waits for family-sponsored based immigrant visas: The priority dates shown are when applicants now up for processing filed their petitions.

For countries with the highest demand for family reunification, especially Mexico and the Philippines, there is a very long line to enter the country legally as an adult child or sibling of a U.S. citizen or legal resident, or as the spouse of a legal resident. Why? To begin with, every nation is allotted the same percentage from a pool of family and employer-based visas available each year, regardless of the demand or volume of petitions filed from from any individual nation.

Immigrants defined as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, i.e. spouses, parents, and children under 21, are exempt from the limits. But for other hopeful immigrants in nations with the highest demand - not coincidentally, nations with large immigrant populations represented in the United States - this means an extraordinarily long wait, one that easily can take decades.


In the news this morning

Buenos días. Here are a few of the top stories this morning, immigration-wise:

  • The Associated Press reports that about 47,000 people have been deported as the result of a federal fingerprint-sharing program known as Secure Communities, intended to seek out criminals; however, about one-fourth of those did not have criminal records.

  • The debate over whether to revise the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to people born in this country, is causing a split within the GOP, Politico reports, with former top Bush Administration aides condemning the push by some Republican leaders to end birthright citizenship.

  • The Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services officials are trying to address complaints from the entertainment industry about a spike in visa denials for visiting foreign artists.


14th Amendment, Section 1

With so much being reported on the political debate over the 14th Amendment - that which grants U.S. citizenship to people born in this country, and to immigrants who become naturalized - it might help to know just what some GOP lawmakers are discussing as they suggest revisions to end automatic citizenship, now a constitutional right, for children of undocumented immigrants.

So here it is, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.