I write about immigration, race, and cities. My work has appeared in news sites across the Southern California News Group. I am a Next City fellow who has also written for Rewire News.
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.
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.
Immigrant-rights organizers have for months been preparing employers in Southern California for the day that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter their workplace to verify employment eligibility.
Those inspections aren’t uncommon — ICE conducted 1,360 in the last fiscal year — but there has been a recent spate of them in Southern California.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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."
The law — known as “Criminal procedure: postconviction relief” — allows people who have claims of innocence, or people whose attorneys failed to warn them about the immigration consequences of a plea deal, a way of challenging those convictions.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rose Cahn, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, who specializes in post-conviction relief and helped draft the bill.
Immigrants can end up in Adelanto after seeking asylum at the San Diego and Tijuana border or after they’re arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents in enforcement operations across Southern California.
They are there solely for administrative purposes, pending decisions in their immigration cases or while awaiting deportation.
The facility, though, has drawn criticism over the number of detainees who have died at the facility. There also have been complaints of sexual assaults
"While immigrant advocates have voiced concern about recent enforcement operations, ICE says it could be taking a higher number of convicted criminals into custody — and more easily — if not for internal law enforcement agency policies and state laws."
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.
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.
“When I first started singing this type of music, many African-Americans would laugh at me and there were many times when I didn’t want to go to school,” Lowery said in Spanish.
“They would call me a ‘wanna-be Mexican,’” added Lowery. “I don’t want to be Mexican. I can never be Mexican, but I have my respects for Mexican people and for the music.”
The Ezzeddins — who include Mahmoud and his wife, their three adult children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren — are Syrian Muslim refugees who were vetted in Egypt for about two and a half years before immigrating to the United States.
They’re a family of artists who embellished furniture in Syria. Now, they’re trying to make the best of life in Riverside at a time when immigrants and refugees, particularly those who are Muslim, are being targeted as threats to national security.