How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The border in Boyle Heights

Seeing the new play "Detained in the Desert" this weekend in at the Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights was a bit like being transported back to my recent previous life as a reporter covering the U.S.-Mexico border: The water bottles in the desert, the immigrant detainees in jumpsuits, the immigration officials and the dark desert roads, along which unspoken tragedies have unfolded. There is even a character based on the leader of a San Diego volunteer group that sets up water stations in the desert for migrants.

Overall, I liked it. Written by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Josefina Lopez, "Detained in the Desert" revolves around two central characters, one of them a young Mexican-American U.S. citizen traveling through Arizona who, upon refusing to show an officer her nonexistent "green card," winds up at an immigrant detention center. The other is an anti-immigrant talk-radio host named Lou.


Online reaction to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize win at once fascinating, unsettling

Photo by laihui/Flickr (Creative Commons)

From a sign held up in Hong Kong, January 2010

Among the most interesting aspects of the response to jailed Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize last week (aside from the Chinese government’s predicted angry reaction, President Obama’s call for his release, and sadly, the subsequent house-arrest detention of Liu’s wife) has been the heated exchanges online in recent days in reaction to the news, with a mix of immigrants and others chiming in with strong opinions about the award, communism, U.S.-China trade and more.

Liu, an advocate for political and human rights reforms, was sentenced to 11 years in prison two years ago for inciting subversion of state power. He also advised students involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, during which a still-unknown number of protesters were massacred after military troops opened fire.


In the news this morning: Immigrant advocates goes local, ICE fingerprint program, race in the 47th District, more

Immigration advocacy goes local - With the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform waning, advocacy groups are focusing their efforts on local communities.

At Tea Party Convention, Lou Dobbs Avoids Immigration Issues | The Nation The former CNN anchor was a keynote speaker of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot’s Convention in Richmond, Va. on Saturday.

The Associated Press: ICE: No opt-out for program checking legal status Local governments cannot opt out of a federal program that checks fingerprints of people who are arrested against a database to determine immigration status, the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday.

Race factor in contest between Hispanic, Vietnamese candidates for Congress - Los Angeles Times This became especially true after Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez's recent televised comment about "the Vietnamese" trying to take her 47th District seat, referring to the campaign of Republican candidate Van Tran.


Q&A: A former labor watchdog on contractors, clients, and illegal hiring

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The tools of a trade in which subcontracted labor is common, November 2009

The illegal hiring scandals that have landed both Meg Whitman and Lou Dobbs in hot water in the course of just over a week have placed a spotlight on the role of employers in illegal immigration, bringing up questions about how involved employers need to be in verifying workers' legal status, and whether it's even possible to avoid unauthorized workers in an economy that depends on low-wage help.

Both cases also raise questions about the role of the middleman - the employment agency or contractor who provides the workers. In GOP gubernatorial candidate Whitman's case, her ex-housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, was hired through an agency. In the case of Dobbs, the ex-CNN anchor known for his stringent views on illegal immigration - and employers who contribute to it - the workers interviewed by The Nation, which broke the story yesterday, worked for contractors who provided services to Dobbs, on his properties and for his daughter's horses.