How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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.


C'mon, she's just a kid!

This morning I linked to a story about Dora the Explorer that appeared in this weekend's Los Angeles Times, tracing the Nickelodeon cartoon character's existence from initial conception (as a cartoon rabbit, of all things) to a lucrative mega-franchise a decade after the show's television debut. There were a couple of lines in the story that I wanted to come back to, just because this sort of thing interests me:

But it wouldn't be the only controversy the animated youngster would face; next, her life and immigration status would be scrutinized. Several doctored mug shots — one depicting a battered and bruised Dora accused of illegally crossing the border — began circulating the Web earlier this year after passage of Arizona's controversial immigration law.

I remember when this was a news story, but I hadn't actually seen the doctored mug shots in question or, for that matter, the Facebook page that shows her flying over the border fence. Curious, I checked out YouTube, where I also found several videos, some more weird and rude than others.


What's in a name: Oaxacalifornia


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Juan Antonio, proprietor of the Oaxacalifornia Café Juice Bar in South L.A.

The name of this modest little juice and snack bar inside South Los Angeles's Mercado La Paloma caught my eye the other day as I stood in line, along with an immigrant from Ghana, watching a couple of employees whip up tropical-fruit licuados and dish out black mole tamales. When owner Juan Antonio peered out from the kitchen, I mentioned to him that I found the name intriguing.

He told me he was sitting around the dinner table with his family seven years ago when he was preparing to open his business, trying to think up names, when "Oaxacalifornia" popped into his head. "It represents the Oaxacan presence in California, the food, the culture," Antonio said. "There's a big Oaxacan community in California."