Category Archives: Immigration

Overexposed In Chinatown

ctown5 ctown20It’s not what it sounds like, although what it sounds like sounds fun…

Nope, I was downtown the other day with a camera set to too high an exposure, on a mission to acquire a parasol.

Almost every store in Chinatown around the rectangle created by Broadway and Hill / Cottage Home and Cesar Chavez sells parasols. But there’s only one I’ve ever encountered with a wide selection of diverse and lovely paper–not polyester, same-painting-on-every-pink-and-blue-version, parasols. After three years away, I wasn’t sure the parasol store would still be in the square at the intersection on Gin Ling and Mei Lin Way (yep, all those little pedestrian streets have names…check out the map here…helps when you’re looking for a specific gallery).

ctown08To my relief, Andy’s Gift Shop was still there, across from the lucky coin-toss fountain (a miniature landscape with different mountain-hermit homes sculpted into the waterfall rock, a different pagoda or edifice you can toss a coin into for prosperity and good luck in any area of life). After meandering past the weirdly cordoned-off statue of Bruce Lee and the skatepunk dudes trying to nail the (presently turned-off) waterfall’s house of Good Luck in Love with pennies, I made it into the gift shop and accessioned what was needed. Thanks Chinatown! It’s nice to know a few things haven’t changed.

I have a really crappy phone with an even crappier camera in it. The settings on the phone randomly re-set them depending on the phone’s own perverse mood swings. That day, it had set the exposure to what us photography-illiterate folks call “way too damn bright.” Oddly, the photos came out pretty, with a washed-out sort of lighting that perfectly showcased the lurid colors of the neighborhood.


ctown21 ctown19 ctown18

















You know that Arizona Boycott? It hit a little redlight.

So you know that boycott of Arizona that the City Council pushed through to express the outrage over the Arizona’s new immigration law? A lot of people have suggested it’s just a meaningless move, like banning nail clippers on airplanes, that doesn’t really change anything but lets a lot of people pat themselves on the back for doing the right thing. But it seems as quick as they were to pass it, they are just as happy to write in exceptions to it. Like the redlight cameras all over the city, turns out those are operated by Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions, Scottsdale being firmly a part of Arizona. And you know, since those are a big source of revenue for the city and prevent accidents at red lights, in the interest of the people, the City Council has gone ahead and excepted them from the boycott. Except they don’t do either of those things. They aren’t making the city any money and if anything they are causing more accidents. And what is worse, the City Council knows this.

The LAPD’s statistics show that about half of the 32 photo-enforced intersections have either had no change in accidents or an increase, said Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

“That’s not a very good record,” she said. And some of the city’s worst intersections for traffic safety don’t have cameras, she said.

She and Councilman Paul Koretz also pointed to a report from the city’s top budget advisor that says Los Angeles’ revenue from tickets falls about $300,000 short of covering payments to ATS and the LAPD’s costs to run the program.

Doing a heck of a job there City Council. Heck of a job.

Wait, WTF are you doing again exactly??
[part of the above photo taken by flickr user jkarsh and used under creative commons]

Did LA’s Arizona Boycott stir up more than expected?

If you read this Washington Times article LA’s sticking its nose into AZ’s business with a threatened boycott one would think so.  Did you know that one  AZ lawmaker has openly encouraged the utilities, nasty coal burning plants to be precise, to take that into consideration and renegotiate the rates charged LA for its power?  Did you know that some 25% of LA’s power comes from AZ?   Should we even care?  Is anyone willing to have an electrical brown out during heat waves or pay higher rates to prove a political point?  Debate it.

Tam & Cinthya

“I wonder if getting a PhD in American studies is going to prove I’m an American?”

— Tam Tran, quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Times

I suppose death is the time to reflect and celebrate a life – but what of the black void leading up to accepting the fact that a life should be celebrated because of a death?  Shrug.  I knew of Tam Tran for quite some time before I finally met her, at a party in which we bantered about the best way to serve cheese.  I also met Cinthya Felix then, and I snapped a few photos of both her and Tam with their best friends.  The picture still lingers in the electronic halls of Facebook like a Post-It reminder waiting to be appreciated, if only I were brave enough to look at it again.

Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, both graduates of UCLA and from Southern California, died in a fatal car crash over the weekend.  Both were undocumented immigrants, brought here as children.  As they went on in their academic careers, they discovered they were ineligible for financial aid thanks to a myriad of statutes barring the release of such funds to undocumented individuals.  Private loans were not an option so long as applications required proof of legal status.  Heck, without proper ID, the pair would have had problems proving they were of age to watch The Hangover.  And so, Tam and Cinthya had to figure out some way to pay the bills in cash.  Cinthya came up with a pretty great website straight up asking the public for donations towards her graduate tuition at Columbia (she wanted to be a doctor).  Tam juggled as many jobs as she could (she wanted to be a filmmaker).  When they didn’t have enough funds, both took off entire quarters until they could re-enroll with the requisite price of admission in hand.

Recognizing they were not alone, the pair advocated tirelessly in support of the as-yet-unpassed DREAM Act, which would grant a carefully defined class of undocumented students residency in this country.  Tam testified before Congress in support of the legislation; her efforts drew the attention/ire of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who, out of sheer coincidence I’m sure, arrested her parents and brother three days after her public stance.

I didn’t know either well enough to presume that I know how they would want to be honored, but I do know that they wanted others to understand their cause, even if one, in the end, did not completely agree with their stance.  To that end, I’m posting a pretty great video Tam created called “Lost and Found (Story of a DREAM Act Student)”.  It was screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific American Film Festival in 2009.  It’s after the jump.

For those struggling with the loss of such honest-to-goodness great people, I suppose the best we can do is trust that the void won’t always be so dark.  And when we’re ready, the Post-Its will still be there to remind us all of Tam and Cinthya, and of our dentist appointment tomorrow at 3pm.  Don’t be late.

Continue reading Tam & Cinthya

Dear Arizona: We’ll Keep Our Immigrant Money to Ourselves

Per the Los Angeles Times, it looks like the LA City Council officially has joined a a growing list of other cities nationwide in boycotting – to the extent the city councils see possible, anyway – the hot state of Arizona.  The boycott comes as a protest against the passage of an arcane immigration law that grants Arizona police fairly wide powers to inquire anyone about their citizenship status (Kev-O had a good run-down of what to do if you are not protesting Arizona, go there to visit the rusty desert, and get stopped because you kind of, sort of look illegal and the cop is having a bad day, or a good one).  Our city council compared the law “to Nazi Germany and the beginning of the Holocaust, as well as the internment and deportation of Japanese Americans during World War II.”  This analogy, I think, actually is more apt to Joe Arpaio’s actions as sheriff of Phoenix and the rest of Maricopa County than the law itself, but I digress.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s governor, who signed the bill to much fanfare/fanhate, just doesn’t understand why all this is happening to the lil’ ol’ xenophobic people of Arizona:

“Why would they want to hurt the legal citizens?” Brewer says. “You and I, and everybody else in this state. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to me.”

Womp, womp, Governor.  So sad, too bad.

May 1st Rally & March: It’s Time to Stir That Melting Pot

Saturday, May 1 is the annual march for immigrants’ rights, and what more apt time to remember our giant range of melting pots than a few days after a borderline-if-not-outright illegal and horrifically anti-human law that is Arizona’s SB 1070?  Bill drafter Kris Kobach may try to defend the law as absolutely necessary, but in the end, if you can trace the origin of a law to a Nazi sympathizer (Russell Pearce) and a supporting member of the birther movement (Kobach),* well, its very likely to be a bad law.  And so, join the estimated 60,000+ individuals, families, and activists who will gather on Olympic and Broadway at 10am somewhat sharp tomorrow to celebrate our collectively diverse roots and to protest those who have the political and police power through which to channel their fears of the Other.  Road closures will start as early as 5:45am at the march assembly area (on Broadway, between 11th and Olympic), and the roads will open and close along Broadway as the march progresses northbound towards Temple.  Maybe instead of fighting it, you should get out of the car and march to your brunch spot.  March, protest and eat.  That’s how we do it in America.

*see also here and here.

Photo of a Los Angeles manhole made in Mexico courtesy Dan Hontz via the Metblogs Flickr pool.

Arizona: What Does a Californian Need to Know?

I don’t spend much time in Arizona. I think I have, like, three friends there, which admittedly is more than I have in most states that don’t hug one of the coasts. And overall there’s not much I like to do there. There’s great hiking, of course, and surprisingly good hummus at a restaurant in Flagstaff whose name I can’t recall. But given the current state of Arizona politics, I don’t have a problem getting my outdoor activities and Middle Eastern cuisine locally.

Your situation, of course, may differ. Maybe you have family in The Copper State; maybe you do business there; maybe you have a weekend cabin near Oak Creek Canyon. I don’t know. But you probably already know that, in the midst of the new anti-immigration law recently passed there, traveling through Arizona just got a heck of a lot more interesting. As residents of a border state, Californians have a lot to be concerned about.

Continue reading Arizona: What Does a Californian Need to Know?

Rutten on American Apparel firings

As a follow up to my post about American Apparel having little choice but to comply with the Obama administration’s order forcing employers to fire undocumented workers, I want to call attention to Tim Rutten’s opinion column in today’s LA Times.

Rutten speaks to the questionable humanity of the new procedure to deal with illegal immigration that will do nothing to provide the underlying necessity, an overhaul of immigration policy. In fact, as the new procedure eliminates the raids and deportations of the past, it will add to an ongoing one: unscrupulous companies that will hire, underpay, overwork and mistreat displaced workers to save a buck.

The administration seems to be choosing the lesser of two evils here, allowing undocumented workers to remain in the US, assumedly so they can act on getting  legal, rather than deportation. In the interim, they will have to deal with finding a  way to survive and support their families.

Rutten quotes one of the fired American Apparel’s workers here in Los Angeles who says he will “go back to one of those sweatshops where I’m going to have to get paid under the table.”

There will still be those of the Neanderthal “too bad–should have stayed in Mexico” mindset who will remain unmoved, but if they take the time to read Rutten’s column, at least they can’t say they never were confronted by the concept of compassion and its glaring necessity as a component of reform.

American Apparel will fire 1800 undocumented workers

American Apparel will fire “about 1800 workers in coming days– more than a quarter of its workforce” in Los Angeles, according to an article that appeared on the NY Times site minutes ago.

The firings are a result of the Obama administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration by forcing companies to fire undocumented workers instead of staging workplace raids.

According to the article, the investigation of American Apparel began 17 months ago under President George W. Bush, but has become regarded by the the Obama administration as a “showcase” for its work to reduce illegal immigration.

‘Ingelore’ & ‘Point of Entry’ screen at Docuweeks film festival


Two documentaries examining immigrant experiences, both here in the US as well as in the originating countries for each subject, played last night at the DocuWeeks film festival at the Arclight Hollywood. And if you take for granted how you got here, each of these films are stark reminders of the challenges faced somewhere along the way by the people of a nation primarily descended from immigrants (let alone the problems we collectively created for Native Americans.)

Ingelore is the story of Ingelore Herz Honigstein, a deaf Jewish woman born in Germany in 1924. She comes to grips with her disability over the next 14 years as the Third Reich rises up around her, practically unnoticed by a girl who already has far too much to accommodate and overcome.

Director Frank Stiefel‘s moving film about his mother, who was present at the screening, is propelled by her own words describing her experiences at the hands of embarrassed parents, ostracizing classmates, plundering Nazis and uncaring US Consulate officials. As she tells her story of overcoming her limitations and escaping Germany for the US, I got a sense she still marvels at her own survival. Continue reading ‘Ingelore’ & ‘Point of Entry’ screen at Docuweeks film festival

BREAKING: ICE Raids Angel Toy Factory, Rally Forming

Just got word via texts and emails that the cold chill of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided the Angel Toy Factory downtown and possibly another nearby location earlier today.  What of it, Obama?

The details aren’t clear just yet – any one of you readers have more information? – but everyone seems to agree that a number of workers were arrested and are being detained at least one local detention center.  A rally apparently is forming in the area – I’ll update if I receive more details.  In the meantime, if you happen to get caught in an immigration raid, know your rights: handy guides here and here.  Think you don’t need to know becauase you’re a red blooded Amer-i-can?  Think again.

Immigration reform addresses gay couples’ rights

An immigration reform rally in Los Angeles and more than 40 other locations nationwide on Monday addressed immigration rights for gay couples, although that information didn’t make it into this piece in the LA Times about the event.

And if you want to see the anti-gay marriage crowd’s feigning that civil unions provide all of the benefits of marriage fall away, take a look at this article on Politico about gay partner language when it comes to immigration reform. A bill is being introduced in the US Congress would include the term “permanent partner” to sections of immigration law that pertain to married couples.

All of the right wing’s subterfuge about “civil unions are enough, just don’t call it marriage” flies out the window.

From Politico:

The chasm inside the immigrant rights community has led the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — a major partner in the drive for expanded immigrant rights — to withdraw its support from a House bill to be filed Thursday that would speed up reunification of immigrants with their families.

Including the same-sex provision in the family reunification bill “would erode the institution of marriage and family by according marriagelike immigration benefits to same-sex relationships, a position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage, which pre-dates the church and the state,” the bishops said in a letter to Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.).

“The last thing the immigration debate needs is another politically divisive issue,” said Kevin Appleby, the bishops’ director of migration and refugee policy.

Another major ally, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, called the efforts to slip gay rights into the immigration debate a “slap in the face to those of us who have fought for years for immigration reform.”

Honda represents California’s 15th congressional district in Santa Clara County, the location of Cupertino, Apple Computer’s headquarters city. He’s been a long time advocate for the gay/bi/trans community.

LA Law: Welcome to America

patriotic_old_women_-_american_flagTwo funny things happened to me right after I passed the bar exam and was officially licensed to practice: everyone suddenly needed a contract written or negotiated, and everyone either had, or knew someone who had, an immigration problem.  I could help with the former; with the latter, I was a bit out of my league.

Immigration law is often cited as second only to tax law as the most complicated and difficult areas of law to navigate.  This is with good reason: the laws controlling who can, and cannot be, present in our country is politically and racially motivated, often contradictory, and highly complex, even to those perfectly fluent in English.  Adding to the density is that the xenophobic immigration laws passed after 9/11 created additional, burdensome barriers to entry and harsh detention policies for those whose status were unconfirmed.  Whether you need to figure out how to obtain citizenship in this country, how to bring your non-U.S. spouse nationalized over here (please, for the love of God, unless you absolutely must enter into a lavender marriage, no more questions on how to enter into sham union with some guy you barely know, just so you can stay in their country), or how to sponsor a family member’s journey, it will be an uphill battle.  Following the jump is a list of legal organizations that will provide free or low-cost help with the process.  As always, check with the organization to make sure you qualify for their assistance.

Should L.A. Cancel May Day?


The current swine flu pandemic is starting to bring about closures throughout the nation. Texas has postponed all high school sporting events. In California, three private schools have already closed as a precautionary measure.

So what about May Day?

According to their website, A.N.S.W.E.R.L.A. is still hosting their annually mass march and rally in Downtown Los Angeles this Friday to “stop war & end racism” and demand “full rights for all immigrants.”

Having identified Patient Zero, we know that current strain of the flu originated in Mexico. While it may be a painful, politically-charged question to ask, is such a large gathering at this time a good idea?

Better yet, is any large gathering a good idea? Should we be talking about postponing Major League Baseball games? What do we do about large gatherings of people on trains or buses? Should there be flu screenings at LAX?

Of course, there is a tendency to say that we are overreacting. We hope we are. But, some are saying the United States isn’t reacting enough. According to the Associated Press, Malaysian health workers in face masks are taking the temperatures of passengers touching down from Los Angeles. FROM LOS ANGELES.

Now does the pig have your attention?

Photo from amitrunchal’s flickrstream