How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

For Los Angeles, a 'multiplicity of corridos'

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

I didn't have a chance to make it to a performance Saturday afternoon by Ozomatli at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the band performed the top entries in a contest seeking the "The Corrido of L.A." But the lyrics to several of the corrido entries are posted on LACMA's website (under "submissions"), and they're worth perusing.

The contest, a joint project between LACMA and the University of Southern California, was held in honor of the centennial of the Mexican revolution. Students in grades 7 to 12 from throughout the city were asked to submit songs written in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style, in any language, that best captured the essence of Los Angeles.

Not surprisingly, many of the corridos submitted dealt with immigration, itself a central theme of Los Angeles. One 11th-grader from Boyle Heights' Roosevelt High School wrote a song about last summer's tragic massacre of Central and South American migrants in the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas. Several others wrote about the experience of undocumented immigrants. More than one entry among the top ten dealt with "el sueño Americano," the American dream.


From readers, more thoughts on the Dream Act

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A homemade poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where student activists gathered to call legislators before the House vote on the Dream Act earlier this month. December 8, 2010

Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion on the Dream Act this weekend, after Saturday's procedural vote in the Senate. I spent the morning with a group of students and other supporters as they made last-minute calls to legislators and watched the vote take place on C-SPAN, posting updates as the voting proceeded. The bill fell five votes short of the 60 needed for cloture, with 55 senators voting for it and 41 against, mostly along partisan lines.

After it was over, Multi-American readers posted comments in what became a rather heated debate. Here's an excerpt from one typical back-and-forth, unedited.

Argentinachick13 wrote:

I’m 17 years old. I came to this country when I was 6 years old. I’m a Junior in Highschool, good grades, never got in trouble by cops. The one thing I want, and that I’m missing? A future. I want to go to college, I want a career, I want an opportunity. Yes I was born in another country (Argentina) but I grew up here, I made friends here, I have a life here, I’m going the right path for a good future. I can’t just throw all my hard work, dedication, and friends away and go back to Argentina and having to start all over again.

Just because I was born somewhere else, doesn’t make me less of a person. I’m still a human being, who wants to get somewhere in life. I was watching the debate this morning. I had tears in my eyes because we were short of 5 points. And I ask myself, what’s going to happen now? Hopefully the selfish senates will make the right decision and not think of themselves for a chage, and let other people have an opportunity too. can only hope.


In the news this morning: The Dream Act defeat, a custody battle over an immigrant workers' son, Latino voters in Compton and more

Students look to 2012 after immigration bill fails - The Washington Post After months of activism in hopes of passing the Dream Act, which would have granted conditional legal status to undocumented students and military hopefuls, students were disappointed by the bill's failure in the Senate Saturday, but say they aren't giving up.

Immigration Vote Leaves Obama Policy in Disarray - The New York Times The defeat of the Dream Act, which failed to win sufficient Republican votes, makes evident that the Obama administration's approach of ramping up worksite and border enforcement has failed to win GOP support for a broader immigration overhaul.

Heart-wrenching fight for immigrant's son - CNN The legal fight over custody of a 4-year-old boy who was adopted after his mother, a Guatemalan citizen, was arrested during a worksite raid at a poultry processing plant.


'It didn't happen today:' Dream Act fails, but supporters vow to keep trying

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Student Dream Act supporters react after the Senate vote tally is read, December 18, 2010

The Dream Act, which would have granted conditional legal status to certain undocumented youths who attend at least two years of college or join the military, fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for cloture in the Senate. There were 55 votes in favor and 41 votes against.

College students and graduates, many of them undocumented, and other supporters spent the morning making last-minute calls to legislators and anxiously watching the vote take place on C-SPAN at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an immigrant rights advocacy organization.

There were tears and visible anguish as the final vote tally was called. Supporters watching the vote knew that the bill, approved last week in the House, faced an uphill slog in the Senate, where it lacked Republican support. Still, many held on to a sliver of hope that it might win enough votes for cloture. They also knew it was the last chance for the bill to stand any chance of success in the near future. A more conservative Congress arrives in January, and any immigration bills that are not enforcement-related face even dimmer prospects during the next two years.