How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

In the news, this afternoon

Good afternoon. The morning slipped away from me as I worked on a post about local relief efforts for victims of the devastating flooding in Pakistan. But better late than never, here are some of the top immigration-related stories of the moment.

  • The Obama administration is not only breaking records in terms of deportations, but in terms of backlogged immigration cases pending resolution, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

  • I wish I'd made it to the Wizard of Oz-themed protest by immigrant advocates near President Obama's Hancock Park fundraiser yesterday, if only to hear a protester wearing a Dorothy costume say this to a reporter, per the Los Angeles Wave: "In 'The Wizard of Oz' Dorothy was lost. She couldn't find her way home. President Obama is lost and he needs to find back to keeping his promise of immigration reform.'' (The biggest story out of the fundraiser, of course, was the traffic jam.)

  • Alabama is the latest state to jump on the post-SB 1070 bandwagon, Business Week reports, with Republican legislative candidates unveiling an agenda that includes an Arizona-style anti-illegal immigration law.

  • Two good pieces on the politics behind the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate, one from the New York Times examining its role in midterm elections for Republicans, another from the Washington Post on the divisions among Democrats on the issue, especially now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has weighed in against the mosque.

  • The Arizona Republic reports on how easy it is to get around the E-Verify system, a voluntary federal online system for verifying employees' eligibility to work in the U.S.

  • Lastly, on the opinion front, a piece from Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times that takes a stand against some GOP leaders' efforts to revise the 14th Amendment in order to do away with automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of undocumented parents.


Help on a personal scale: Pakistani immigrants create their own mini flood relief efforts

wading in pakistan

Photo by DFID - UK Department for International Development/Flickr (Creative Commons)

People wading through flooded streets in Charsadda, Pakistan, August 9, 2010

Three weeks after the Indus River overflowed in Pakistan, creating the nation's worst humanitarian crisis since a devastating earthquake struck the northern part of the country in the fall of 2005, aid has been slow to trickle in. The situation is expected to get worse as millions are left without shelter, with food running out and more flooding predicted.

International organizations ranging from UNICEF and Oxfam to Islamic Relief Worldwide have been collecting donations for disaster relief, but closer to home, members of Southern California's Pakistani immigrant community have been mounting their own flood relief efforts, even if on a tiny scale. In the Los Angeles area, where the Pakistani community is estimated at around 150,000, efforts to raise money for disaster relief have taken the form of garage sales, a potluck fundraising dinner, even a weekend plant and clothing sale.


Old country, meet new country

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Beneath a sea of umbrellas and cowboy hats, a crowd watches dancers at Expo Mexico downtown, August 15, 2010.

A highlight of my weekend was a visit to the crowded "Expo Mexico" fair yesterday next to Olvera Street, part of a two-day conference put together by an umbrella group of Mexican hometown associations known as the Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica, or COFEM. Not so much for the fair, though it was great, but for the surprise I encountered upon meeting the group's leader.

For those not familiar with hometown associations, they are groups of immigrant neighbors and family members who band together to raise money for their hometowns, traditionally for infrastructure and basic quality-of-life improvement projects. (Once in the late nineties, I traveled to a town in northern El Salvador to report on a hometown group that had driven a much-needed ambulance all the way there from Los Angeles, an ambitious trek that could have merited its own reality show, had those existed back then.)


Suicides among border agents on the rise

The Associated Press has a story and video documenting a disturbing trend: A spike in suicides among U.S. Border Patrol agents. According to the story, at least 15 agents have taken their own lives since February 2008. More from the story:

Federal officials insist the deaths have nothing to do with the agency, which has doubled in size since 2004, or the increasingly volatile U.S.-Mexico border. But administrators have quietly undertaken urgent suicide-prevention initiatives, including special training for supervisors, videos about warning signs and educational programs for 22,000 agents nationwide

Whatever the reason behind the deaths, there is no question that patrolling the border hinterlands is a backbreaking job. It is also one that has become


In the news this morning

Feliz Monday. Here are a few of the top immigration-related stories today and from over the weekend.

  • Politico reported on the results of a poll that has "solid majorities of the public and overwhelming majorities of DC elites" favoring the passage of some kind of comprehensive immigration legislation.

  • The Washington Post reported that Utah lawmakers, until recently leaning toward proposed legislation similar to Arizona's stringent SB 1070, are changing course.