How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Latest drama in the governor's race: The undocumented ex-housekeeper

It's not a great day for the Meg Whitman campaign. The GOP gubernatorial candidate's former housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz, alleged late this morning in a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred that she spent nine years working for Whitman's family illegally and that she was fired in June 2009 after she approached the family to ask for help gaining legal status.

The Whitman campaign, meanwhile, says that Whitman was unaware that Diaz was undocumented, and has released related documents. According to the Whitman campaign, Diaz, who is alleging mistreatment, was fired after she admitted to being in the country illegally.

Immigration has been a sore spot for Whitman, who faced Democratic candidate and state attorney general Jerry Brown in a debate at UC Davis last night. Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has faced criticism from Latino and union groups for courting Latino voters while simultaneously campaigning on an immigration platform that includes tighter border security, a ban on admissions of undocumented students to state colleges and universities, and a stated opposition to bilingual education.


Q&A: Disney intern Noor Abdallah on hijab and work

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Noor Abdallah in her Disney uniform

The Muslim intern who fought Disney over her hijab, and won, is a second-generation University of Illinois senior, a psychology major and a native of the Chicago suburbs who “grew up on Disney movies.”

Noor Abdallah, 22, took the company to task this summer after arriving in Anaheim to begin an internship as a vacation planner. Upon arriving, she was informed that because she wears the traditional Islamic head scarf, known as hijab, she must take a job with less guest interaction. She was offered a stockroom job while a customized uniform was made, a wait that would take about five months.

Abdallah sought assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations after learning about Iman Boudial, a Moroccan immigrant and Disney worker who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the company last month on similar grounds. Disney relented, allowing Abdallah to work in the vacation planner job. She has been working in hijab since earlier this month, wearing a blue head scarf with a beret-style hat.


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.


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.