How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigrant youth activists rally for child migrants to stay in US

PROTEST 001

Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Luis Ojeda, left, and César Vega Magallón join a group of young immigrants at Placita Olvera in downtown to protest the deportation of children crossing the U.S. border and to ask the Obama administration to grant them refugee status. The group chanted, held signs and shared personal stories of living here as an undocumented immigrant.

About two dozen young activists rallied near Olvera Street on Thursday, calling on the Obama administration to let the child migrants who have been arriving in record numbers at the border stay in the country long-term.

Some of the activists, members of immigrant rights groups like Dream Team LA and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, arrived in the United States as children themselves.
 
Twenty-six-year-old Mercedes Montaño arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 8, accompanied by a friend of her mother, who was already here. She said she wants for the Obama administration to show leniency toward the unaccompanied minors and families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries that have suffered in recent years with growing gang and drug violence.
 
“The clear message that we want to send him is that he can use his administrative power to stop deportations of all the 11 million undocumented," Montaño said. "But more so, with this crisis at the border, that he can grant refugee status to these children. It is shameful that as a country, we don’t see the pain and the violence that these children are coming from.”

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For desperate parents of Central American child migrants, a false rumor and false hope

Mexico Migrant Children

Chris Sherman

More than 50,000 migrant children and teens from Central America have headed to the U.S. since last October.

Even before she left El Salvador for the United States six months ago, Tricia had heard about the "permiso." The 30-year-old mother of two heard it again on her way here, from the smuggler who accompanied her after she left her children home with their father and grandmother.

"I had been told by friends, even by the same people who brought me, that there was a law or something like that, for children, so that they can't be sent back to their country," said Tricia, who didn't want to use her last name because she's in the U.S. illegally. "Something the president had declared, a permit that they had given."

There is no such thing, of course. But in the international game of telephone that is communication between immigrant communities in the United States and relatives back home - in a part of the world where relatively few have Internet access - the "permiso" rumor became a small ray of hope for some parents, like Tricia, desperate to get her children out of El Salvador.

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In immigration news: Murietta's mayor, media campaign, GOP tensions

Murrieta protests

David Bauman (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise)

Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif.

A California City Revolts Against Undocumented Immigrants - TIME  Alan Long, the mayor of Murrieta, Calif., struck down notions that he helped to organize protesters who confronted several buses bringing 140 immigrants to a border-patrol center in his town. Border-patrol agents turned the buses around and went instead to a San Diego center. Said Long: “We understand these immigrants are coming from a less desirable location. It’s not about them. We’re opposing the federal system that’s broken.”

US launches media campaign in Central America highlighting illegal immigration dangers - Associated Press U.S. Customs and Border Protection is spending $1 million warning Central American parents not to send their children to the US because of the dangers they'll face such as cartels and day-long walks through the desert. Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske launched the campaign on the banks of the Rio Grande in south Texas, where most of the children are crossing. The 11-week "Dangers Awareness Campaign" will include "hundreds of billboards and some 6,500 public service announcements for radio and television stations" in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.  

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In immigration news: Murrieta as the 'new flashpoint,' more migrants from Texas arrive in So Cal, tension within GOP, more

Protesters block the arrival of immigrant detainees who were scheduled to be processed at the Murrieta Border Patrol station in California on Tuesday.

Sam Hodgson/Reuters/Landov

Protesters block the arrival of immigrant detainees who were scheduled to be processed at the Murrieta Border Patrol station in California on Tuesday.

A California Town Revolts Against Undocumented Immigrants - TIME On the "new flashpoint in the fierce and often contentious debate over how to handle a recent crush of children and families streaming across the Mexican border." That being Murrietta, Calif., the small Riverside County city where municipal leaders have opposed immigration officials' plan to process Central American migrants flown in from Texas at a local U.S. Border Patrol station. On Tuesday, protesters waving American flags blocked the buses' entry to the facility.

Murrieta Official Warns Immigration Protests Likely ‘Every Time’ Buses Arrive - CBS Local Murrieta, Calif. mayor pro-tem Harry Ramos said in a radio interview "that the standoff Tuesday – which included several protesters holding U.S. flags and signs reading 'stop illegal immigration,' and 'illegals out!' – may occur every 72 hours as a new busload of immigrants are processed through Border Patrol." A town hall meeting is planned Wednesday night.

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Their program under attack, Dreamers fight back

DACA Dreamers under attack

Josie Huang/KPCC

Dreamers Justino Mora, Pedro Trujillo and Sean Tan (l. to r.) speak out in defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the headquarters of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

DACA Dreamers under attack

Josie Huang/KPCC


As the country grapples with tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing illegally into the U.S., there’s been a lot of finger-pointing as to what’s causing the spike. 

Republicans say lax immigration policies from the Obama administration - namely a program that defers deportation for immigrants who came here illegally as kids - have created the false impression that new arrivals will be allowed to stay. California Congressman Darrell Issa is among the Republicans circulating a letter on Capitol Hill that calls for a repeal of the program.

But participants of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, say Republicans are playing politics - and refuse to stand down. These young immigrants — often called Dreamers — are staging protests outside Issa’s offices and have launched a Twitter campaign against him and others. One of the hashtags wielded Tuesday was #IssaFail.

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