How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. Latino International Film Festival starts


Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival

A still from the documentary "Immigrant Nation! The Battle for the Dream"

The 14th annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicked off last night in Los Angeles at Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood. And now that the red carpet has been walked and the luminaries have made their appearances, it’s time for the rest of us to dig into some terrific offerings as the festival begins in earnest today.

There are a number of films this year that deal with immigration and related themes, something to be expected, but not always as one might expect.

The more straightforward among them are “Immigrant Nation! The Battle for the Dream,” a documentary involving the activist deportee Elvira Arellano, who took shelter in a Chicago church for several months between 2006 and 2007 and was eventually returned to Mexico – taking along her U.S.-born son – after immigration authorities caught up with her in L.A. Another film, “Harvest of Loneliness,” documents the Bracero program that brought million of Mexican workers to the U.S. between the early 1940s and early 1960s, foreshadowing the back-and-forth over guest workers in recent years and the immigration debate in general.


The DREAM Act and the military


Photo by Herald Post/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Hispanic heritage celebration at a military installation in Heidelberg, Germany, October 2009

A post on the LA Eastside blog this afternoon regarding a town hall meeting on DREAM Act, scheduled to place tonight in Echo Park, is worth highlighting in that it brings up an aspect of the bill which garners relatively little attention: That college wouldn't be the only way for undocumented youths to earn legal status under the proposed legislation. They could also earn legal status by joining the military, and this worries some folks, among them people of color who don't want to see their community's kids - already targeted by military recruiters - now marching off to combat for fear of otherwise being deported.

I reported on this issue during a previous incarnation of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, otherwise known as the DREAM Act. Now, as pro-DREAM Act student activism has reached new heights, and the Obama administration has quietly spared some young people from deportation who would be affected by the bill if it were to pass, the "backdoor draft" concern is again bubbling to the surface. Supporters of the DREAM Act, meanwhile, argue that the good outweighs the bad, and that no one would be forced to enlist.


RIP Richard 'Scar' Lopez

Earlier this morning I linked to a post in LA Observed noting the recent death of Richard "Scar" Lopez, a founder of Cannibal & the Headhunters, a revered Eastside vocal group that for a short period in the mid-60s had a wildly successful run with "Land of 1,000 Dances." (The song is best known to later generations who grew up hearing it on oldies stations as that song that starts with "Na, na-na-na-na...") In its heyday, the band opened for the Beatles (at Shea Stadium, no less), the Rolling Stones and the Righteous Brothers.

Lopez, a graduate of L.A's Lincoln High School, died July 30 in Garden Grove at 65. The Los Angeles Times also has an obituary today, featuring  quotes taken from a 2005 interview that Lopez did with the LA Weekly. This is one of my favorites: