How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Newly naturalized citizens get called to the civic duty of voting — right away


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Maria and Jesus Romero receive stickers from Rosa Vizcarra indicating that they voted. The Mexican couple became naturalized U.S. citizens after 18 years in the states. A new program with the Orange County and Los Angeles County registrar offices allowed the naturalized citizen to register to vote and even vote on site at the L.A. Convention Center.


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Anya Sarinana of the Orange County registrar office helps newly naturalized citizens register to vote after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.


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Teresa Maya of Mexico has been in the U.S. for 19 years. She studied for four years before attending the naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center. Her immediate family are American citizens and it was time to embrace the U.S., she said.


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Voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages were available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.


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Newly naturalized American citizens register to vote after the ceremony at the LA Convention Center.


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Volunteers gave about stickers to newly naturalized American citizens after they registered to vote.

In a room packed with thousands of newly minted citizens waving American flags on Tuesday, Los Angeles and Orange county voting officials saw an opportunity: Signing up potential new voters just in time for the Nov. 4 general election.
As new citizens streamed out of two citizenship ceremonies at the L.A. Convention Center, voter registration workers from L.A. and Orange counties waved them down. Then they steered them to a workshop in a room nearby, where they could sign up to vote.
Antonio Martinez, an immigrant from Venezuela, said he figured he'd register to vote one of these days. He wasn’t expecting an instant call to civic duty.
“Someone stopped me downstairs, and they told me, if you want to register right now, I can do so," said Martinez, a real estate agent who has lived in the United States for 14 years. "So I did. That is wonderful. You can register to vote and become a citizen on the same day? That is great.”
L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan says his office typically has a presence at citizenship ceremonies, but that this time they kicked it up a notch, with post-ceremony voter workshops that were announced to the crowd as ceremonies were ending.
The goal Tuesday, he said, was to take advantage of a special right new citizens have: While everyone else had to register by Monday to cast a ballot next month, the newly naturalized are excepted. They may still register onsite at a citizenship ceremony, or at county headquarters in Norwalk.
"Even if it is after the cutoff for voter registration, you can still register and cast a ballot in this election," Logan said. "And what greater opportunity than to get people right at the time they become citizens, and to reinforce the importance of voting and participating in our elections."
Some new citizens can be hard to draw to the polls. Studies have found that while foreign-born, naturalized Latinos have higher turnout than Latinos who are native-born, the opposite is true for Asian-Americans, who face language and other barriers to participation.


In immigration news: Executive action said not to be final, Oregon driver cards, federal detainers, more

Measure 88 Oregon

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A crowd of Measure 88 supporters wave signs during a rally in Portland, Ore. Measure 88 would require the Oregon Department of Transportation to issue driver cards to Oregon residents meeting specified eligibility, without requiring proof of legal presence in United States.

White House says immigration plans not final yet - Associated Press White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned reporters Wednesday not to make assumptions about what kind of unilateral action the president might take on immigration. Speculation about executive action bubbled up over a government contract proposal from the Homeland Security Department that called for a vendor who could "make as many as 34 million immigrant work permits and residency cards over the next five years."

Oregon driver cards: Rural voters could decide divisive immigration issue - The Oregonian Polls show voters in Oregon are torn over whether to approve Measure 88, which would allow immigrants in the country illegally to apply for state drivers' licenses. One political analyst predicts that urbanites will vote in support of the measure, suburbanites will oppose it, leaving its fate in the hands of rural voters.


In immigration news: The diverse 'second great wave' of immigrants, executive action, Hawaii's Latino population, more

Mercer 18532

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Immigrant rights demonstrators on the steps of the Colorado state Capitol. As immigrant networks have spread out in recent decades, parts of the U.S. far beyond urban centers and traditional receiving states have become increasingly diverse.

Second immigration wave lifts diversity to record high - USA Today As immigrant networks have spread out, "racial and ethnic diversity is spreading far beyond the coasts and into surprising places across the USA, rapidly changing how Americans live, learn, work and worship together." Immigrant communities have long spread beyond traditional urban centers and into small metropolitan and rural areas. These networks have branched out in the wake of what's referred to as "second great wave" of immigration that began around 1970.

Feds Getting Ready for Executive Action on Immigration - NBC News U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is expected to be at the forefront if and when PresidentObama announces executive action on immigration; Obama has indicated this could happen after the midterm elections, but by the end of the year: “Our agency will be shouldering the primary responsibility for executing whatever it is," said agency director León Rodríguez.


Get-out-the-vote, LA style: Phone bank operators work in 17 Asian languages

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Volunteers at a phone bank organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles are trying to reach voters in 17 different languages.

In an office building near downtown Los Angeles, a couple dozen volunteers recently worked their way through lists of Asian American registered voters – young voters, newly registered voters, and voters who have a poor track record of participation. They wanted to know if people on the list planned to vote in November and took the opportunity to urge them to get to the polls.

In one corner of the room, a volunteer spoke Mandarin, in another, a young woman offered to speak Urdu to the voter on the line. From a room down the hall, Vietnamese and Tagalog could be heard. 

“We’re actually doing one of the largest phone bank operations, not necessarily in voter numbers, but in language numbers,” said Tanzila Ahmed, one of the organizers and voter engagement manager for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a local civil rights and civic engagement group that’s coordinating the effort.


In immigration news: Fewer immigration holds, new detention center for families, more

ICE Holds Immigrants At Adelanto Detention Facility

John Moore/Getty Images

A growing number of police agencies are denying federal requests for immigration holds on immigrants in their custody; immigration officials say some agencies have released people with previous criminal convictions.

Thousands Released After Immigration Holds Denied - Associated Press From the story: "Immigration officials say local authorities across the U.S. released thousands of immigrants from jails this year despite efforts to take them into federal custody, including more than 3,000 with previous felony charges or convictions. The numbers are the first time federal immigration authorities have publicly detailed how many times local agencies have refused to comply with their requests." A growing number of local agencies are denying requests for federal immigration holds on immigrants in their custody.

Texas Center Part Of New Effort To Detain Illegal Immigrants - NPR On the new 2,400-bed detention center for immigrant families being built in Dilley, Texas: "It's actually a detention camp. But it's going to be family-friendly because they're going to obviously be detaining the children, too. So they're will be playrooms and snacks and drinks, basketball court, soccer field. But it's surrounded by a fence and locked gates, so they can't leave."