How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

UC Dreamers to get more financial aid, advisers this fall

UCLA Dreamers

Roberto (Bear) Guerra

'Dreamer' students from UCLA prepare to enter their graduation ceremony in 2012.

When they head to campus this fall, some 2,000 ‘Dreamers’ in the University of California system will see more advisers and financial aid waiting for them.

UC President Janet Napolitano’s office has split $5 million among the nine undergraduate campuses to improve services and ease the financial burden on students who came to the country illegally as children.       

How much each campus received was based on the estimated size of its Dreamer population. One of the things UC Riverside is doing with its $512,000 allocation is hiring a program coordinator to advise these students on everything from finances to academics.

“Sometimes we find that our undocumented students are hesitant to reach out for services they’re eligible for because they want to fly under the radar,” said Joe Virata, UC Riverside’s assistant dean of students.


In immigration news: How executive action could prompt a budget war, voluntary return settlement, an immigration court judge speaks out, more



President Barack Obama speaks on immigration reform beside U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 30, 2014. Some GOP lawmakers opposed to Obama's plans to take executive action on immigration have suggested it could lead to a budget battle this fall.

Immigration could set stage for big U.S. budget showdown - Reuters Republican lawmakers opposed to President Obama's plan to take executive action on immigration are reportedly "threatening to tie a must-pass budget bill to the issue, making for a possible showdown in September and raising the specter of a government shutdown." Obama has said he'll take action on immigration alone, blaming GOP leaders for the failure of immigration reform in Congress. White House officials have said the threat of a shutdown won't deter Obama's plans.

Obama suggests he'll need more time on immigration policy - Los Angeles Times From the story: "One proposal under discussion would delay a decision on the more sweeping and controversial changes under consideration until after the November midterm election, according to a White House official familiar with the discussions." This proposal would have President Obama announce immigration enforcement measures first, then tackle the deferment of deportation for more immigrants until the end of the year. 


Voluntary return immigration settlement: What happens next?

Families Reunite At US-Mexico Border Fence

John Moore/Getty Images

Family members reunite through bars and mesh of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, California. A recent settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Homeland Security could allow some people who were voluntarily repatriated to Mexico to come back.

A settlement that requires immigration officials to better inform immigrants of their rights before they agree to return to their native countries could allow some people who were repatriated to Mexico to come back to United States.
The settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Homeland Security stems from a 2013 lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of nine Mexican nationals and Southern California immigrant advocacy groups.
The plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that they were pressured by immigration authorities to sign what’s known as “voluntary return” or "voluntary departure" papers, with immigration authorities failing to inform them of their right to a hearing, or that they could be barred from the United States for ten years.

The complaint states that "the  immigration enforcement agencies operating in Southern California regularly pressure, deceive, and threaten Mexican nationals who are eligible to reside in the United States lawfully - and have built lives in the United States over decades - into signing their own expulsion orders."
Now, others who were voluntarily repatriated to Mexico from Southern California between 2009 and 2013 may be able to come back – provided they can prove they have the right to. Among other things, including their ties to the U.S. and good moral character, they’ll have to prove that they accepted a voluntary return and, if possible, come up with records.
“They’ll have to show that they qualify because they had a voluntary return, so they’ll want the information: A sworn statement, documents that they signed, if they did have them and immigration issued them," said Alma Rosa Nieto, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles.
Nieto says she anticipates confusion: The settlement doesn't apply to people who have been formally deported, a different kind of removal process. And people who came back to the U.S. illegally are disqualified.
This would include people like Ignacio, a restaurant cook who returned illegally to his home in San Diego after accepting a voluntary return. He was sent to Mexico in 1999, before the window for the lawsuit. But his thinking at the time applies to others like him, with families and jobs in the U.S.


For kids facing a judge in immigration court, 'a strange experience'

Immigration court sketch 3 b&w

Graham Clark

A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.

Immigration court sketch 2

Graham Clark

A teen girl appears in immigration court in Los Angeles.

The first time 17-year-old Yoel faced an immigration judge in the courtroom earlier this year, she was so petrified she could hardly speak.
“I felt nervous," said Yoel, a soft-spoken girl who didn't want her last name used because of her status. " They asked me my name, and I wasn’t able to completely say it, because of my nerves.”
Terrifying as it might have been, it was not nearly as terrifying as what she left behind last fall in San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- considered the most violent city in the world; a place where gangs are especially powerful.
“I was threatened," she said. "I couldn’t go anywhere they because always followed me. When I tried to report them, so they'd be careful around me, they threatened me. They told me that if I reported them, they would kill my entire family.”
Yoel says she was targeted because a local gang leader wanted her for himself, by force - regardless of how she felt: "He threatened me, and wanted me to be with him, either the right way or the wrong way. I didn’t want to live like that. I didn’t want to live with a gang member."
She fled the home where she lived with her mother and younger siblings for her aunt's home. But members of the gang followed her there one day, forcing her to flee out the back door. It was then that Yoel decided to leave Honduras. She left in the company of a family friend, a man headed north to work who agreed to look after her.
They made it to Mexico, and from there it was a harrowing journey north on the train migrants call “La Bestia,” or The Beast. Migrants with no other means of transportation climb atop the train en route to the United States, but some don't make it: Some fall to their death or are maimed, while others are preyed on by criminals.


Angelenos press Obama for broad action on immigration

Immigration Worker March - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Hundreds turned out for an immigration rally outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown LA, followed by a town hall at La Placita Church.

Immigration worker town hall

Josie Huang/KPCC

At the town hall, Maria Elena Durazo, chief of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said worker permits and a stop to deportation were among the top priorities.

Immigration worker town hall

Josie Huang/KPCC

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck urged President Obama to do "what's right" as he prepares to announce immigration reforms.

Immigration Worker March - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

An estimated 400 people took part during the march to the Metropolitan Detention Center from La Placita Church.

Immigration Worker March - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Carlos Castillo of Trabajadores Unidos de Washington DC traveled from the East Coast to participate in the march on Wednesd to the detention center.

Immigration Worker March - 5

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Juanita Rivera of Puerto Rico came with her son, an LA resident, to take part during a march on Wednesday, Aug. 27 supporting immigrant worker protections in any administrative relief plan that President Obama announces in the coming weeks. The march led from La Placita Church to Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown LA.

Immigration Worker March - 7

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Hundreds of marchers gather outside La Placita Church in downtown LA before a march on Wednesday, Aug. 27 supporting immigrant worker protections in any administrative relief plan that President Obama announces in the coming weeks.

Immigration Worker March - 8

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Adelina Nicholls of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights travelled from Georgia to take part during a march.

Immigration Worker March - 9

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Rodrigo Ortiz, an employee at the Pomona Day Labor Center, waves at the detention center during the march.

Immigration Worker March - 11

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Marchers chant while looking up at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Immigration Worker March - 10

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Marchers show signs to oncoming traffic on the 101 Freeway during a gathering on Wednesday, Aug. 27 supporting immigrant worker protections in any administrative relief plan that President Obama announces in the coming weeks.

Immigration Worker March - 12

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Diego Cap of CHIRLA takes part during a march.

President Obama is expected to announce new immigration measures in the coming weeks that could affect millions of people in the country illegally.

What he will do is a source of great speculation in immigration circles. But Obama was called on to take bold action during a town hall Wednesday evening in downtown Los Angeles that drew an estimated 600 people, including immigrants, politicians and law enforcement officials. 

Inside La Placita Church, Maria Elena Durazo, chief of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said immigrants are looking for four things from the president: Work permits. A stop to deportations. Rights for workers.  For police to stop helping federal immigration officials.

"It is our community's priority to obtain administrative relief," Durazo said in Spanish.