I write about immigration, race, and cities. I'm a Next City equitable cities fellow and USC Annenberg journalism news fellow for 2018-19.
Marilynn Montaño, who works as a barista in the downtown area, documents the closure of long-time businesses — including quinceañera boutiques — by posting photos of the empty shops on Instagram.
In one photo, she features a young woman wearing a quinceañera dress, posing in front of an empty boutique. A yellow, handwritten sign declares the shop has moved to Huntington Park.
“I started to document them because, in a couple years, this is just going to be a memory to someone,” said Montaño, 25.
“We don’t consider these quinceañera shops, the people who make these dresses, as also artists. When we say support artists, we think of visual artists at galleries, but they’re also artists. They’re also makers."
In recent years, #CentralAmericanTwitter has emerged as an online space to fill the void of decades of invisibility. As President Donald Trump threatens the futures of Central Americans in and outside the U.S. through policy or by describing deported immigrants as “animals,” this online space is now starting to take physical shape.
It’s the children of Central American immigrants who are finding places to break through the Mexican-dominated landscape, lift up their own identities, and challenge the mainstream idea of what it means to be Central American.
By outward appearances, many wouldn’t immediately guess that Parrish — a white native-English speaker born in South Africa — is part of a program whose recipients in California mostly hail from Mexico and Central America.
For Parrish, his identity gives him an unusual perspective on what it means to be undocumented under the Trump administration.
“It is amazing how accepting people are when you look like one of their own,” said Parrish, who is studying math at Cal State San Bernardino.
Parrish’s immigration status, however, like that of other DACA recipients, remains in limbo.
“My parents have always told (us) opportunities are anywhere. They brought us to this country because it was supposedly the land of opportunity,” said Karla Estrada, 26, of Los Angeles. “But if we find opportunity in another place, our country is wherever our feet take us,” she said.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi smiled as she stood at a podium in San Francisco last week and described young, undocumented immigrants as “our VIPs.”
But the House Democratic leader wasn’t even finished speaking when dozens of very loud young people walked in. They shouted demands and took over the press conference.
Her smile gone, Pelosi appeared shaken.
“For a long time, we’ve been fighting the fight for the Dreamers,” she tried to interject.
“We are not Dreamers!” some shouted back.
Young and undocumented, yes. Just don’t call them "Dreamers."
Ramon Ruiz Ortiz of Moreno Valley went to San Bernardino’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office at 10 a.m. May 11 to interview for a green card giving him permanent residency. By 7 p.m., he’d been deported to Tijuana.
Now, his family and an attorney representing the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino are trying to figure out what happened to the man they describe as a hard-working husband and father with no criminal record. They contend he should not have been deported.
Ramon Ruiz Ortiz's case is one that Southern California immigration advocates signaled as a shift in enforcement. He was an undocumented immigrant with no criminal record who was deported when his application to adjust his legal status was denied. Previously, people who did not qualify were just denied, not deported.
Elizabeth Almanza was raised in an evangelical Christian church that stressed biblical teaching, but as an adult she yearned for more.
Almanza said she needed spiritual nourishment, but also to serve others. She found that in the Catholic Church.
In 2013, Almanza, 30, converted to Catholicism and is part of a growing Inland Catholic population that’s defying a national trend of Catholics leaving the religion.
First Congregational Church of Riverside, located downtown near the Mission Inn, is doing so even if the move puts the parish at odds with federal law as President Donald Trump ramps up deportation efforts.
For some churches, offering sanctuary is in line with their faith tradition of confronting what they see as unjust laws.
Faith leaders across the Inland area say congregations need to go beyond spirituality to address the San Bernardino mass shooting that left 14 dead, and 21 others wounded.
“The faith community has to come out of its four walls,” said Sherman Dumas, pastor at Kingdom Culture Worship Centre in San Bernardino.
Dumas said congregations should embrace prayer, but also stand for stricter gun laws.
With prototypes of the border wall in place, both Mexicans and Californians are talking about Trump’s plan
President Donald Trump’s self-described “big, beautiful” border wall is taking shape with eight 30-foot prototypes rising in San Diego — stark barriers that have not impressed those living on the Tijuana side of the Mexican border.
Visually, the prototypes are offensive, said Maria Elena Valenzuela, 40, who was born in San Diego and grew up on both sides of the Tijuana border. “They’re horrible,” she said.
“If you don’t want to bring home deported veterans, at least take care of them,” said Hector Barajas, who lived in Compton and had served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division before being honorably discharged in 2001. “Make sure they get what they rightly deserve. There’s no law that says we can’t get VA benefits.”
Barajas, 40, founded the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana in 2013, three years after he was deported.
It’s been 20 years since Mitzie Perez has last seen her native Guatemala and now she’s aiming to make the trek before it’s too late.
This could be her last chance to see her ailing and remaining grandparents, not just for her sake, but for her parents, who are undocumented. Her dad already missed out on seeing his mother before she passed. And, her mom, did not get a chance to see her father before he died.
“It might be my only and last chance to go. And I’m doing it for them,” said Perez, 25.
Can racism play a role in infant mortality? Riverside County helps black mothers find support, community
The nearly 30-year-old Black Infant Health program is the state of California’s response to address the gaps in infant mortality deaths that continue to disproportionately affect the black community.
Years ago, Black Infant Health programs primarily focused on getting individual black women into prenatal care. Now, state health officials are focusing on a more group-based and holistic approach exploring how racism, not race, can contribute to the early death of black infants.