How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

In Bell, a recipe for exploitation?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

On a window outside the entrance to City Hall in Bell, September 22, 2010

How much of a role did the city of Bell's ethnic and economic makeup have to do with the corruption scandal that landed eight city officials in jail yesterday? Plenty, if you ask those who live there.

Yesterday Bell's mayor, its former city manager, three council members and three other former city officials were arrested on corruption charges, and a newly released state audit begins to reveal just how much financial mismanagement took place, with exorbitant salaries for city officials and more than $50 million in bond money subjected to misuse.

Meanwhile, some of the discussion about the scandal has turned to Bell's population, as in how governing a majority Latino, working-class and politically disenfranchised community likely made it easier for Bell officials to operate with impunity.


Next step on DREAM Act: A stand-alone bill, supporters say

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Solemn DREAM Act supporters at a downtown rally after Tuesday's Senate vote, September 21, 2010

Today’s Senate vote blocking a defense bill that included the DREAM Act – proposed legislation that would create a path to legal status for undocumented youths who go to college or join the military – is being seen as a temporary hurdle by the bill’s supporters, some of whom rallied this afternoon in downtown Los Angeles following the vote.

“This is not the end for the DREAM Act, this is not the end for the bill, and this is definitely not the end for the immigrant youth movement,” said Carlos Amador, 25, an undocumented UCLA graduate student, addressing a small crowd outside the federal building at 300 N. Los Angeles Street.

The defense bill failed to win the 60 votes necessary for cloture, with 56 senators voting against it and 43 in favor. Votes were divided almost exclusively along partisan lines.


No to the DREAM Act, at least for now

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Janeth Herrera Bucio, center, and other students in Westlake react to news of the Senate vote, September 21, 2010

The U.S. Senate has voted 56-43 against taking up a defense bill with an amendment that would have included the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youths who attend college or enlist in the military.

For a group of students who gathered to watch the televised vote in Los Angeles' Westlake district, the news was met with gasps and a few tears. But after nearly a decade of various incarnations of the measure circulating around Congress, the supporters quickly regained their determination.

"Now we're going to push for the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill," said Leslie Perez, 21, an undocumented UCLA student.

Perez, who dabbed at tears as the vote was read, and others said they were encouraged by a speech by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) that followed the vote; Durbin has long championed the proposed legislation.


Waiting for a DREAM Act vote

Students at a makeshift calling center at the UCLA Labor Center in the Westlake district of Los Angeles watch C-SPAN 2 in anticipation of a U.S. Senate vote on the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youths who attend college or join the military. Since last week, supporters of the proposed legislation have been making calls to legislators from here and other calling banks.

The proposal is attached as an amendment to a defense bill. A vote is expected any minute.