How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: Jamiel Shaw's aunt on Colbert immigration testimony

Photo by StreetFly JZ/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Police tape, May 2008


"Would it be comical if your daughter or your son or your niece or nephew was lying in the street dead, shot in the head, by someone living in this country illegally?"

- Althea Rae Shaw, aunt of Jamiel Shaw II, fatally shot in 2008 at 17 by an undocumented suspected gang member


Althea Rae Shaw, the aunt of the late Los Angeles High School football star, blasted comic Stephen Colbert for his occasionally serious but mostly humorous testimony last week on illegal immigration before the U.S. House of Representatives in an angry "open letter" opinion piece, posted yesterday on USC Annenberg's South Los Angeles reporting project, Intersections.

The letter, written last Friday and published in unedited form, has elicited a series of impassioned comments from readers, some who sympathize with the teen's grieving family, others who take offense to associations between "Illegal aliens" and crime. The language in both the letter and the comments is far from politically correct and generalizations abound. But the uncomfortable exchange provides a sobering glimpse into the racial tension that exists between African-Americans and Latinos in parts of Los Angeles, and how it has managed to creep into the immigration debate, at times exploited by entities that have little to do with either community.

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A Disney intern's uniform, with hijab

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Noor Abdallah in her Disney uniform

A Disney intern who did battle with the company over her traditional Islamic religious head scarf, known as hijab, is at work in the job she was hired to do, and in a uniform adapted for her.

Noor Abdallah, 22, sought legal help after arriving from Illinois to begin work at the Anaheim resort. She had interviewed by phone for an internship as a Disney vacation planner, but upon arriving in California, she was informed that because of her hijab, she would instead have to take a stockroom job while a customized uniform was made.

Upon learning that she would have to wait five months for a custom uniform - the length of her internship - Abdallah sought assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties group with an office in Los Angeles. Within a week, Disney relented, allowing her to work in the vacation planner job with a uniform that includes a blue head scarf with a beret-style hat over it.

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DREAM Act supporters are back at it after bill is reintroduced

Photo courtesy of Cyndi BePhoto courtesy of Cyndi Bendezu, UCLA Downtown Labor Center

DREAM Act supporters hang a banner over the 101 Freeway downtown before the Senate vote last Tuesday, September 21, 2010

After the failure last week of a Senate bill carrying the DREAM Act to gain sufficient votes for cloture, supporters of the long-running proposed legislation have been granted what they wished for, more or less: a stand-alone bill. And while it's unlikely that it will come up for a vote this legislative session, supporters are once again trying to rally legislative votes in case it does.

On Wednesday, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reintroduced the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, which had been attached to a defense authorization bill that came up for a vote last Tuesday, failing 56-43. The proposed legislation, versions of which have existed for almost a decade, would grant legal status to undocumented youths who arrived here at age 15 or younger if they attend college or join the military.

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