How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Atomic Cafe: Little Tokyo music landmark falls to wrecking ball

Atomic and Troy Cafes

Nancy Sekizawa via DubLab

Nancy Sekizawa ran the Atomic Cafe for her parents during the '70 and '80s and turned it into the place for top punk bands to hang out.

Atomic Cafe

Atomic and Troy Cafes

Courtesy of Little Tokyo Service Center

Nancy Sekizawa and her parents, the Matobas, who ran the Atomic Cafe at First and Alameda starting in 1961. The Matobas had been displaced from two other spots in Little Tokyo before.


Indie rock, jazz, punk  — music always spilled from the brick building best known as the Atomic Cafe at First and Alameda in Little Tokyo.

That ends Thursday, when the low-slung building across from the Japanese American National Museum will meet a wrecking ball, as a demolition crew makes room for a new subway station.

In the 1990s, it was called the Troy Cafe and hosted Los Angeles's hottest Chicano bands, a young Beck and a long list of famous musicians.

During its heyday as the Atomic Cafe in the '70s and '80s, it attracted the likes of Sid Vicious and Debbie Harry and was known for its jukebox stocked with bootleg 45s of punk rock shows.

"It was just music that made you want to throw up sometimes, it was so grotesque sometimes," said Nancy Sekizawa with a laugh. Her family owned the restaurant, and patrons called her Atomic Nancy. "It was so great!"

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In immigration news: Court hearings delayed for years, talk of another executive action lawsuit, more

Immigration court sketch 3 b&w

Graham Clark

A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles. The federal Justice Department has reportedly been notifying thousands of immigrants that their cases are being delayed by five years; priority has been given to the cases of children and teens who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last year from Central America, prompting delays with other cases.

U.S. Delays Thousands of Immigration Hearings by Nearly 5 Years - Wall Street Journal The federal Justice Department is reportedly sending notices to thousands of immigrants that their cases are being delayed for years, as backlogs in the courts continue. From the story: "The delay makes room for higher-priority cases caused last summer by a surge in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border with Mexico. The Justice Department began notifying employees in the immigration court system last week that nonpriority cases were being bumped off the court docket and would get a Nov. 29, 2019, court date."

Boehner opens door to Obama immigration lawsuit - CNN House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has reportedly announced plans to challenge President Obama's executive immigration order in court. From the story: "Boehner told Republican House members at Tuesday morning's meeting he plans to take steps to file a lawsuit. 'We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue -- one we believe gives us the best chance of success,' Boehner said, according to a source in the room."

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After development is nixed, what's next for Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza?

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza. The building it is on would have been torn down as part of a proposed development by the MTA, which has reconsidered.

Opposition from the community has pushed the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit to rethink a proposed development at Mariachi Plaza, the iconic Boyle Heights gathering spot.

The proposal was for a roughly 120,000-square-foot development with shops and medical office space. Critics argued that it wouldn't suit the needs of the historic immigrant neighborhood - and  would encourage further gentrification from downtown. 

So now that Metro plans to go back to the drawing board, what do residents and merchants want? It depends on who you ask.

“Some people want a market, and a laundry where they can wash their clothes. Some people want parks," said Carlos M. Montes, head of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council. "Some people want recreation. And of course, some people want low-income housing.”

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In immigration news: Texas v. United States, White House pushes economic benefits, Cuban migration on the rise, more

Obama immigration

White House

Two months after President Obama signed an executive immigration order that could grant temporary legal status to millions, 26 states have signed on to a lawsuit that seeks to block his order from taking effect. Nevada and Tennessee are the latest to join.

Over Half The States Are Suing Obama For Immigration Actions - Huffington Post Nevada and Tennessee are the latest to join Texas v. United States, a multi-state lawsuit that seeks to block President Obama's executive immigration order from taking effect. That brings the number of states suing to 26. Filed by Texas officials in December, the lawsuit "contends Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in executive actions on immigration that may provide deportation relief and work authorization for up to 5 million people."

Garcetti, other mayors join lawsuit in defense of Obama immigration plan - Southern California Public Radio Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and more than two dozen other mayors from around the country have signed an amicus brief in Texas v. United States - in support of President Obama's immigration plan. The brief, filed Monday, argues that the plan "will fuel economic growth in cities across the country, increase public safety and public engagement, and facilitate the full integration of immigrant residents by promoting family unity and limiting family separation."

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Garcetti, other mayors join lawsuit in defense of Obama immigration plan

Garcetti Forum

Grant Slater/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum in October. Garcetti and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are leading a coalition of more than two dozen mayors in support of President Obama's recent immigration order; on Monday, the coalition filed a brief in support of the order in Texas vs. United States, a multi-state lawsuit that aims to block the order from taking effect.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is one of a long list of mayors who have signed on to an amicus brief supporting President Obama's executive order on immigration.

The brief was filed Monday in Texas v. United States, a federal lawsuit filed in December with the intent of stopping the recent order from taking effect.

Garcetti and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio organized the coalition of city leaders, which includes Mayors Ed Lee of San Francisco, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. and more than two dozen others.

Obama's executive order, signed in November, would temporarily protect millions of immigrants from deportation. Those who would qualify for a three-year reprieve and a work permit include certain immigrants who arrived as minors, and parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents who have spent at least five years in the United States.

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