Tag: Race


On the Road to Opportunity


Laura E. Enriquez
Daisy Vazquez Vera
S. Karthick Ramakrishnan

Previous research shows that undocumented immigrants face a variety of economic, educational, and social barriers due to their undocumented status.[1] However, little scholarship has specifically explored how immigrants’ undocumented status structures spatial mobility, particularly by limiting access to driver licenses. Driving without a license increases the risk of coming into contact with immigration enforcement mechanisms and thus increases the risk of deportation.[2] Even when police do not cooperate with immigration officials, there are financial consequences if the unlicensed driver is cited and/or their car is impounded.[3] These risks lead many undocumented immigrants to restructure their lives—driving only at certain times or to fewer places—and limit their economic, educational, and social participation. For example, undocumented immigrants may avoid driving farther for employment or educational opportunities or decline to engage in social activities that require driving or proof of government-issued ID.[4]

Given the anti-immigrant stance of the current federal government, sub-federal policies offer a glimmer of opportunity to undocumented Californians.[5] For example, California Assembly Bill (AB) 60, known as the Safe and Responsible Driver’s Act, went into effect January 2015. California became the tenth state to provide undocumented immigrants with access to driver licenses, moderating the consequences of illegality by allowing them to more fully participate in society.

A year after the implementation of AB 60, a reported 830,000 undocumented individuals had applied for an AB 60 driver license, roughly 31% of California’s undocumented immigrant population.[6] Yet, approximately one in four applicants were unsuccessful in obtaining a license during the first year.[7] While it is to be expected that not all undocumented immigrants would apply or successfully obtain a license, it is important to consider whether some groups are disproportionately unable to partake in this opportunity and move toward social integration.

It is not a simple matter to know whether immigrant communities in California have equal access to driver’s licenses; AB 60 was designed and implemented in a manner that explicitly prohibited the collection and dissemination of data on applicants’ race, ethnicity, and national origin. In order to overcome these limitations on administrative data, our research team conducted interviews with staff members from thirty-two immigrant-serving organizations in greater Southern California, to explore why some undocumented Californians have not applied for AB 60 driver licenses and identify the barriers that make applicants unsuccessful. We find four main barriers to successfully obtaining an AB 60 driver license:

  1. fear of revealing one’s immigration status;
  2. few acceptable identification documents when applying;
  3. language barriers; and
  4. limited advertising for testing accommodations.

Although all undocumented immigrants may face these barriers, race differentiates how these barriers emerge, making it so that undocumented immigrants who are not of Spanish-speaking, Mexican origin are more likely to be prevented from obtaining an AB 60 driver license. We argue that the implementation of AB 60 has raised unique barriers that disproportionately disadvantage some groups of undocumented Californians.

Racialized Illegality

Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, 77% are of Latina/o origin. Yet, almost a quarter of undocumented immigrants are not from Latin America, with approximately 16% coming from Asia, 4% from the Caribbean, 3% from Africa, and 3% from Europe and Canada.[8] Furthermore, the Asian undocumented population has grown to approximately 1.7 million individuals, more than tripling between 2000 and 2015, accounting for about 1 in 7 of the Asian immigrants in the United States today.[9] Despite these demographic realities, pervasive images link Mexico and Latin America with undocumented immigration.[10]

The racialization of undocumented immigration as a Latina/o issue leads to racialized illegality, wherein undocumented immigrants experience illegality differently based on how they are racialized in the United States. This racialization can draw attention to Latina/o undocumented immigrants, leading to their increased risk of interaction with police and immigration enforcement mechanisms, higher deportation rates, xenophobic interpersonal interactions, and hate crimes.[11] However, Enriquez finds that the racialization of illegality can have a silver lining, as Latina/o undocumented college students have an easier time accessing educational resources and support structures than Asian/Pacific Islander undocumented students.[12] Research also indicates that the racialization of anti-immigrant policies like Proposition 187 in California led to greater mobilization among Latinas/os than among Asian Americans.[13] Thus, regardless of whether the cause is institutional bias or differential mobilization, prior work suggests that the demographic predominance of Latinas/os and the discursive racialization of undocumented migration as a Latina/o issue may disadvantage non-Latinas/os and non-Spanish speakers in institutional settings, such as applying for AB 60 driver licenses.


We draw on interviews with staff members from thirty-two immigrant-serving organizations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. We purposefully recruited staff members that serve undocumented immigrants. Interviews took place in two waves: from August to October 2016 and from July to August 2017. Each interview lasted approximately one hour and followed a semi-structured interview guide. For this article, we focus on the part of the interview where staff members discussed the barriers that their clients faced when applying for AB 60 licenses and the advocacy and/or services they provided around AB 60. Data analysis involved open and discrete coding to identify four primary types of barriers. We then compared across racial groups to see how these varied.

We also conducted participant observations at twelve DMV offices in Southern California. In Los Angeles and Orange counties we selected three offices in each: one in a predominantly White area, one in a Latina/o area, and one in an Asian area. In San Bernardino and San Diego counties we selected two offices in each: one in a predominantly White area and one in a Latina/o area. We also observed two Driver License Processing Centers, offices dedicated exclusively to driver license transactions. We conducted two hours of observations at each of the offices—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Observations focused on observing client experiences as well as staffing and application volume and demographics.


Fear of Revealing Immigration Status

Our interviews suggest that both the state of California and non-profit organizations allocated significant funding to raise awareness about AB 60. Organizations reported holding community forums, distributing information at community events, putting on workshops, and designing infographic roadmaps describing the application process and requirements to apply. Latina/o organizations’ longstanding work on undocumented immigrant issues ensured that they had the institutional capacity to quickly disseminate information about AB 60 to their clients. Organizations’ work to raise awareness about AB 60 licenses revealed that undocumented immigrants from all countries of origin feared the potential repercussions of disclosing their immigration status to a government agency. A representative from the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice shared: “There was a lot of misinformation. There were people saying, ‘don’t get the AB 60 driver license, you’re going to get deported.’” Organizations worked to counteract these fears, highlighting how the AB 60 licenses are not marked differently in DMV databases and that the documents they submit with their application are not available in any public record.[14]

However, organizations recognized that in some cases the fear of being targeted for deportation was valid, particularly within the Latina/o community where individuals were more likely to have criminal records due to racialized policing practices. Law enforcement and immigration agencies often depend on driver license databases to identify and locate individuals as part of their investigations, posing a risk for AB 60 applicants with criminal histories.[15] A representative from the Mexican Consulate suggested that these practices can affect individuals convicted of minor offenses: “Operations that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has done tend to sort of get individuals with low criminal records. So sometimes … DUIs, failure to appear, failure to pay tickets.” A few organizations suggested that these types of minor criminal records were more likely to haunt Latinas/os because many of these infractions result from their higher risk of being pulled over for unlicensed driving due to racial profiling and police procedures.[16]

Stalled in Secondary Review: Few Acceptable Identification Documents

To apply for a license, applicants must provide documentation to confirm their identity; however, acceptable documentation is stratified by country of origin.[17] Essentially, the less secure the identification document, the more documents must be provided to substantiate an applicant’s identity. Applicants can present a single foreign document if it is an identification card issued by the Mexican government (i.e., passport, consular card, or electoral card) or a valid foreign passport with a verifiable U.S. social security number. Applicants from Korea and nine Latin American countries can provide two foreign documents, a valid passport and an approved identification card. All others must submit as many supplementary documents as possible, which are sent to secondary review for verification. This secondary review process disproportionately targets non-Latinas/os and can significantly delay or even prevent their application.

Notably, undocumented individuals from Mexico have the most straightforward identification process because they are only required to provide one identification document that is readily available via same-day processing at one of the six Mexican consulates in greater Southern California. According to a representative from the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, this unique opportunity to provide a single identification document resulted from close collaboration: “The DMV worked very close with the government of Mexico in order to have a system.” Indeed, the Mexican Consulate changed their consular card in November 2014 to meet DMV requirements by incorporating new safety features such as encrypted data and biometric measures.[18] In this case, long-standing relationships among the Mexican Consulate, organizations, and the DMV helped them establish a straightforward identification process for Mexican-origin immigrants applying for AB 60.

While this benefits Mexican-origin immigrants, those in more rural areas of California may still have trouble traveling to a Consulate.

All non-Mexican applicants are required to present multiple forms of identification, preventing their timely and successful application for a driver license. Prior to October 2016 (when Korean identification cards were approved),[19] the DMV had only approved consular or national identification cards from Latin American countries as a secondary form of identification. A representative from the Thai Community Development Center explained: “There was that issue and the fact that our folks couldn’t present their Thai national ID card. So they would [only] have their passport, and everyone was basically getting pushed into secondary review because they didn’t have the appropriate IDs that the DMV was looking for.” Unlike the Mexican Consulate, other national governments and non-Latina/o serving organizations had to spend time developing relationships with the DMV so that they could get their identification cards approved. This forces almost a quarter of the undocumented immigrants who are not from these eleven approved countries into the drawn-out secondary review process. Organizations found that many applicants lost the desire to pursue their license because the delay in their application process. In some cases secondary review could take so long that their one-year driving permit would expire before they receive a license, forcing them to re-start the entire process.

It is important to recognize that some groups are not able to get identification documents from their foreign governments. A representative from the Korean Resource Center shared, “The problem with the consular ID is that some nations don’t have it. And that creates inequities between immigrants. Some African nations, their government [sic] isn’t functional so there’s no way they’re going to get national ID. Some countries don’t even have consular offices nearby so they have to travel to Washington DC, which is not possible.” A representative from Korean Community Services also mentioned that Korean men between the ages of 18-35 have difficulties obtaining a consular ID because they are not serving their military obligation.

“The problem with the consular ID is that some nations don’t have it. And that creates inequities between immigrants. Some African nations, their government [sic] isn’t functional so there’s no way they’re going to get national ID. Some countries don’t even have consular offices nearby so they have to travel to Washington DC, which is not possible.”

Lost in Translation: Language Barriers

At all steps in the application process, AB 60 applicants have to navigate potential language barriers. A representative from the Thai Community Development Center explained,

“There’s a lot of language access barriers at all levels. Getting information. If they actually call the DMV, they only greet you in Spanish and English, so if I was a monolingual non-English, non-Spanish speaking person, how would I navigate a telephone system that I can’t understand? Even though the DMV has interpretation services available, how are you able to get through [to] that when you can’t even understand what you’re being told? A lot of the materials haven’t been translated yet, but are currently in the process.” Indeed, the DMV offers limited translation services, which disproportionately constrains non-Latina/o undocumented immigrants who do not speak Spanish.

Language barriers arise throughout the entire application process. First, applicants must acquire information about the AB 60 application process and make an appointment. However, the DMV’s website only provides AB 60 information in English and Spanish. Our observations at twelve DMV offices also found that most AB 60 resources were only available in English and Spanish. Second, applicants must interact with DMV employees as they apply and take tests. Our DMV office observations suggest that, regardless of the racial demographics of the area, there was often a DMV employee available who spoke Spanish, but not necessarily other languages. Third, applicants must study for their driver license knowledge test. While the tests are available in thirty-one languages, study materials are only available in fourteen non-English languages.[20] Finally, the behind-the-wheel driving exam is only administered in English; those who do not have a working understanding of English may struggle at this final stage.

Our DMV observations suggest that most non-Spanish speaking applicants navigate their limited English language skills by bringing someone to serve as their interpreter; however, study materials and knowledge tests remain unavailable in many languages. At the beginning of this project in 2016, DMV study materials were only available in ten languages: Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Since then, four new languages were added to the list: Hindu, Japanese, Khmer, and Thai. These additions are the result of active advocacy by community organizations to expand language access. Yet, significant gaps in language offerings remain. In particular, representatives from Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and Semillas de Esperanza spoke about indigenous Latina/o groups being some of the last to find out about AB 60 and among the most disadvantaged in receiving language assistance at the DMV.

Finally, all groups share some concerns that the language translations provided are too formal and lack cultural competency. Many organization representatives expressed concerned that the DMV was translating materials verbatim and not including any cultural context. A representative from Asian Americans Advancing Justice explained, “Certain words exist in English but it might not exist in Filipino, in Korean, in Thai, in Swahili, in different languages.” A representative from the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition also believed that this issue also impacts Spanish speakers since the majority use colloquial Spanish and the DMV’s Spanish translation includes more difficult and technical terms that cause confusion. Thus, even when translated materials are provided, language barriers can still contribute to failing the knowledge exam. 


Beyond the Computer Exam: Limited Advertising of Literacy and Technology Accommodations

The driver license knowledge test is offered as a computer-based test. However, undocumented immigrants, especially those from less educated and low-income backgrounds, may often struggle with limited technological skills. A representative from the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego shared, “They’re using now these touch screens that doesn’t allow people to come back to certain questions, or is very confusing sometimes when they skip a question and they don’t realize if they don’t go back to it or [that] they’re even able to go back to it, it’s qualified as a no answer so it’s wrong.”

The driver license knowledge test also poses unique barriers for individuals who struggle with literacy. A representative from the Mexican Consulate explained, “We do have a large population of individuals who can’t read or write. And those tend to be indigenous. And those are the ones that haven’t taken advantage of the license. … [Another] reason why is because they don’t know how to study.”

Attempting to accommodate individuals with special needs, the DMV offers several alternative methods for completing the driver license knowledge exams, including listening to an audio version of the test or having an examiner ask the questions.[21] These services appear to have been developed for general applicants who are visually disabled and it is unclear if these services extend to individuals with limited literacy. Most applicants are also not aware of these alternative options and information about these accommodations is not available on the DMV’s AB 60 website. A representative from the North County Immigration Task Force in San Diego, shared, “Many people do not know that they can ask for an oral test. Or people are being forced to take the test in the computer when they don’t feel comfortable doing it.” To counteract this, they encourage their clients to ask for paper or oral exam accommodations. Yet, the audio test is only available in fifteen non-English languages, and an audio version of the study materials is only available in English and Spanish.

Coordination and Advocacy: Broadening the Impact of AB 60

Two and a half years after the implementation of AB 60, it is important to reflect on who is struggling to benefit from this policy. We find that significant barriers remain for all undocumented immigrants. However, it is also clear that the implementation of AB 60 has disproportionately hindered the social integration of a significant portion of undocumented immigrants—namely those who are not of Spanish-speaking, Mexican origin. For the most part, this is the product of two factors: institutional capacity (the DMV was already equipped to work with Spanish-speaking clients), and strategic coordination (Latina/o-serving organizations were poised and funded to raise awareness about the new law, and the Mexican Consulate worked closely with policy makers to ensure that the identification documents available to Mexican undocumented immigrants would be accepted).

As these barriers revealed themselves, immigrant-serving organizations took note and began to advocate for clients. A coalition of organizations wrote an open letter to the DMV Director outlining the unique barriers faced by the African, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander undocumented communities, advocating for policy changes to increase their access.[22] Organizations, particularly Asian/Pacific Islander serving ones, translated information to clients—in person, over the phone and on their own websites. Some consulates looked to the Mexican Consulate as they began looking to coordinate with the DMV to ensure that their identification cards met DMV guidelines. Coalitions and networks abounded as organizations looked to one another for advice and resources, referring clients to others when they were not equipped to offer services.

Despite these barriers, California is poised to issue a million AB 60 licenses to undocumented immigrants by the end of 2017.[23] This is a substantial win for the undocumented community, and will contribute to countless positive outcomes for undocumented immigrants, their families, community members, and California as a whole. At the same time, our fieldwork in Southern California has revealed substantial barriers faced by Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants, and there are good reasons to believe immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean face similar barriers. With other states looking to California for leadership on immigrant integration, the state has a unique opportunity and obligation to ensure that all share the benefits of policies such as immigrant driver’s licenses equally. 



Thank you to our project collaborator, Dr. Allan Colbern, and our research assistants, Rocio Garcia and Asbeidy Solano. The research received funding from the UC California Immigration Research Initiative. Special thanks to all interview participants, community organizers, and officials who worked to establish and implement AB 60.

[1] Leisy J. Abrego, “Legal Consciousness of Undocumented Latinos: Fear and Stigma as Barriers to Claims-Making for First- and 1.5-Generation Immigrants,” Law & Society Review 45 (2011): 337-70; Nicholas P. De Genova, “Migrant ‘Illegality’ and Deportability in Everyday Life,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (2002): 419-47; Joanna Dreby, Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015); Shannon Gleeson and Roberto G. Gonzales, “When Do Papers Matter? An Institutional Analysis of Undocumented Life in the United States,” International Migration 50 (2012): 1-19; Shannon Gleeson, “Labor Rights for All? The Role of Undocumented Immigrant Status for Worker Claims Making,” Law and Social Inquiry 35 (2010): 561-602; Roberto G. Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015); Cecilia Menjívar and Leisy J. Abrego, “Legal Violence: Immigration Law and the Lives of Central American Immigrants,” American Journal of Sociology 117 (2012): 1380-1421; Laura E. Enriquez, “Multigenerational Punishment: Shared Experiences of Undocumented Immigration Status within Mixed-Status Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family 77 (2015): 939-53; Laura E. Enriquez, “A ‘Master Status’ or the ‘Final Straw’? Assessing the Role of Immigration Status in Latino Undocumented Youths’ Pathways out of School,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43 (2017): 1526-1543.

[2] Amada Armenta, Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017); Mary Romero, “Racial Profiling and Immigration Law Enforcement: Rounding up of Usual Suspects in the Latino Community,” Critical Sociology 32 (2006): 447-73.

[3] Ryan Gabrielson, “Sobriety Checkpoints Catch Unlicensed Drivers,” New York Times, 13 February 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/us/14sfcheck.html?_r=0

[4] See Laura E. Enriquez, “Gendering Illegality: Undocumented Young Adults’ Negotiation of the Family Formation Process,” American Behavioral Scientist 61 (2017): 1153-1171; Leah Schmalzbauer, The Last Best Place: Gender, Family, and Migration in the New West (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014); Angela Stuesse and Mathew Coleman, “Automobility, Immobility, Altermobility: Surviving and Resisting the Intensification of Immigrant Policing,” City & Society 26 (2014): 51-72. There is also compelling evidence that access to driver’s licenses reduces the incidence of hit-and-run incidents. See Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller, and Duncan Lawrence, “Providing Driver’s Licenses to Unauthorized Immigrants in California Improves Traffic Safety,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (2017): 4111-4116.

[5] Pratheepan Gulasekaram and S Karthick Ramakrishnan, The New Immigration Federalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Allan Colbern, “The ‘California Package’ of Immigrant Integration and the Evolving Nature of State Citizenship,” Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (2016),  http://www.irle.ucla.edu/publications/documents/IRLEReport_Full.pdf; Monica W. Varsanyi, “Interrogating ‘Urban Citizenship’ Vis-À-Vis Undocumented Migration,” Citizenship Studies 10 (2006): 229-49; Monica W. Varsanyi, Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).

[6] DMV, “AB 60: 605,000 Driver Licenses Issued in First Year,” (2016), accessed on 28 August 2017, https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/newsrel/newsrel16/2016_0; Joseph Hayes and Laura Hill, “Undocumented Immigrants in California,” Public Policy Institute of California (2017), http://www.ppic.org/publication/undocumented-immigrants-in-california/

[7] DMV, “AB 60: 605,000 Driver Licenses Issued in First Year.”

[8] 2015 estimates of the unauthorized population from Center for Migration Studies. Retrieved from http://data.cmsny.org, 15 September 2017

[9] S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Sono Shah, “One out of Every 7 Asian Immigrants Is Undocumented” (2017), accessed on 18 September 2017, http://aapidata.com/blog/asian-undoc-1in7/.

[10] Leo Chavez, The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Otto Santa Ana, Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public Discourse (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002).

[11] See Armenta, Protect, Serve, and Deport; Amada Armenta, “Racializing Crimmigration: Structural Racism, Colorblindness, and the Institutional Production of Immigrant Criminality,” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3 (2016): 82-95; Tanya Golash-Boza and Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, “Latino Immigrant Men and the Deportation Crisis: A Gendered Racial Removal Program,” Latino Studies 11 (2013): 271-292; Brentin Mock, “Hate Crimes against Latinos Rising Nationwide” (2007), accessed 20 September 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2007/hate-crimes-against-latinos-rising-nationwide. Dennis Romero, “In the Era of Trump, Anti-Latino Hate Crimes Jumped 69% in L.A.,” LA Weekly, 29 September 2016, http://www.laweekly.com/news/in-the-era-of-trump-anti-latino-hate-crimes-jumped-69-in-la-7443401.

[12] Laura E. Enriquez, “Border-Hopping Mexicans, Law-Abiding Asians, and Racialized Illegality: Analyzing Undocumented College Students Experiences through a Relational Lens,” in Studying Race Relationally, ed. Natalia Molina, Daniel Martinez HoSang, and Ramón Gutiérrez (Oakland: University of California Press, forthcoming).

[13] S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005).

[14] For examples, see Drive CA, “AB60 FAQ” (n.d.), accessed on 31 August 2017, http://driveca.org/drive-ca-faq; Drive CA, “AB60 in an Era of Resistance: Know Your Rights” (2017), accessed 31 August 2017, https://www.aclunc.org/sites/default/files/20170208-ab60_era_of_resistance_know_your_rights.pdf. President Trump’s administration has made it clear that policies and priorities can shift at any time, potentially leaving applicants vulnerable to being identified by government records. For example, see the case of the New York City municipal ID card: Liz Robbins, “New York City Should Keep ID Data for Now, Judge Rules,”  New York Times, 21 December 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/nyregion/new-york-city-should-keep-id-data-for-now-judge-rules.html?mcubz=; Colin Lecher, “Facing a Trump Administration, NYC May Push Its Immigrant Data Kill Switch,” The Verge, 15 November 2016, https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/15/13640344/trump-president-immigration-data-idnyc-new-york-city

[15] NILC, “Documents Obtained under Freedom of Information Act: How U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement and State Motor Vehicle Departments Share Information” (2016), accessed 31 August 2017, https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Info-Sharing-FOIA-Summary-2016-05.pdf.

[16] Armenta, Protect, Serve, and Deport.

[17] DMV, “AB 60 User Friendly Guide to Document Options to Obtain a California Driver License” (2016), https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/11a86d62-f848-4012-bc7d-4192bdef4f00/doc_req_matrix.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[18] Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, “Mexico’s New Consular Id Card: Improving the Secure and Reliable Identification for Mexicans Abroad” (2014), accessed 31 August 2017, https://mex-eua.sre.gob.mx/images/stories/PDF/MatriculaConsularMexicanaingnueva.pdf.

[19] Hyoung Jae Kim, “New ID to Grant Rights to the Undocumented to Obtain Driver’s License,” Korea Daily, 22 September 2016, http://www.koreadailyus.com/new-id-to-grant-rights-to-the-undocumented-to-obtain-drivers-license/.

[20] DMV, “AB 60 Driver License” (2017), accessed 8 August 2017, http://dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/ab60.

[21] DMV, “Alternative Methods for Completing the Driver License Knowledge Tests,” accessed on 31 August 2017, https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/dl/dl_info#alternative.

[22] Drive CA, “Re: AB 60 Implementation Concerns from African, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Undocumented Communities in California” (2015), http://driveca.org/cms/assets/uploads/2015/05/AB60-African-Asian-Concerns-Letter-to-DMV_4-2-15.pdf.

[23] Alexei Koseff, “Undocumented Immigrant Driver’s Licenses near Milestone in California,” The Sacramento Bee, 26 July 2017, http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article163623103.html.


Laura E. Enriquez is Assistant Professor of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the educational, economic, political, and social experiences of undocumented young adults who immigrated to the United States as children.

Daisy Vazquez Vera is a doctoral student in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

S. Karthick Ramakrishnan is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and Associate Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. He received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University. His research focuses on civic participation, immigration policy, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States.

Copyright: © 2017 Laura E. Enriquez, Daisy Vazquez Vera, and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Américas: Chapter the Fourth


David Kipen

“Last week,” he began, sleep forgotten, warming to the story as if from memory, growing more loquacious the while, “for all anybody knew I could’ve been dead a year. A year ago I was traveling with Frémont’s army, supposedly writing a profile of him for the Tribune.

Boy, that man knew how to treat a reporter. I wasn’t in any hurry to finish. I guess I took too long, because Mr. Greeley sent word I was to file immediately or not bother coming back.

I was mulling the choice when I heard a story from an old Miwok woman about gold in the foothills of the Sierra. So I stuffed my Frémont notes into my saddlebag, waited till lights-out, lammed out of that man’s army and made for the mountains. If I didn’t get rich, at least I’d get a better story. Maybe I’d get both.

So I knocked around California for a few months, chasing down one rumor after another. I rode south almost to Placerita to check out the gold strike from ’42, but it was pretty well played out.

All the time I kept hearing about this fellow Sutter, a Swiss colonel who’d gone up the Americano from Yerba Buena and set himself up king of the Sacramento.

Last month I figured I’d go and see for myself. On my way, I met a talkative Mexican—begging your pardon—who’d heard that there was gold up below Tahoe, but that Sutter’s marshal hadn’t got around to checking it out yet.

Once we pulled in, who do I see but Jim Marshall, the best carpenter in Frémont’s army. He was on his way up the trail as foreman to a pack of Mormons, aiming to build Sutter his first sawmill that wouldn’t fall over if you pissed on it.

Well, Jim remembered me. He’s a good guy—a little soft, maybe, but honest. So I made him a deal. He wouldn’t have to lie, I was very specific about that. But I’d work for him at half-wages if he’d keep it off the books. He assumed I was on a fresh story, and so I was.

All the while, I sought out whatever news came to hand. The war—call it Mexican, call it American, or call it what they all are, a Real Estate War—the war was over, but the peace talks in Mexico City were taking forever. Typical diplomats. Every Sabbath an announcement was expected, and every Sabbath, none came.

Lately, though, the negotiators at the Guadalupe-Hidalgo villa looked to be putting on steam again. If they didn’t sign something, the war might flare back up. If that happened, the Washington delegation might get recalled home in a hurry,— where the winds were colder, their wives closer, and a good mole nowhere in evidence.

Anyway, Marshall and a bunch of us traipsed up into the foothills, with all our equipment banging and clanging off the wagon like a jug band. He picked out a riverbank for the mill,— a pretty place, well-forested and sheltered from the wind. Next day we went to work.

I kept my eyes open the whole time. Every chance I got, which wasn’t often, I wandered off with a fishpole, creel and a dipper hanging off my belt, ransacking the terrain for a sparkle. Mormons probably thought I had a wench up there.

Those Mormons worked pretty fast once the Miwoks taught ’em upstream from down. Young Charley Bennett finally figured out which end of a saw was which, and Scotty the carpenter was almost ready to start in on the mill wheel.

And then the sky opened. It rained for a week, let up for a day and rained some more. I borrowed an oilcloth slicker from the cook and took to squelching around the foothills.

At first there was nothing. I trudged through the mud and underbrush in circles. By the second day, I could go a full hour without getting lost. But my creel stayed empty, with nary a nugget or even a trout to weigh it down.

On the night of the full moon, I resolved to stay out after dark. Either it’d be bright enough to shine up a nugget, or dark enough to stumble across a bear,— by this time, I didn’t much care which.

Once the sun dropped behind the ridgeline, I made out a mossy cliff nearby, just starting to glisten in the moon. Halfway up the side, a jagged spot showed itself, darker than the cliff around it. I tear-assed over to the riprap under it and looked back up.

Just as I’d thought, it was a cavern. I scrabbled up the scree toward it. With every step, a tiny gravel avalanche slid me back almost as far. Finally I gained a purchase at the very top of the pile and chinned myself over the lip.

There in the cave, dim in the infiltrating starshine, I saw a hoard of gold beyond counting.”

“How much?” I interjected, stirring as if from a trance.

“Didn’t I just say it was beyond counting?”

“About how much?”

“Am I telling this story or you?”

“I thought you were sleepy.”

“Second wind.”

“Windier by the minute, to my ear. Monsieur Vignes always says to avoid ten-dollar words. He says they’re just showing off.”

Navarre looked pained, as if from an old wound.

“Ten-dollar words. Kee-rist. Just because you don’t have ten dollars for one of my words doesn’t mean the whole world is broke.”

“If your word is ten dollars and mine is five, where are most customers going to shop?”

He considered.

“Look, kid. If this shed caught fire, which book would you save?”

“That’s easy. Monsieur Vignes bought me the whole Martin Chuzzlewit, bound in buckram. With deckle edges.”

“How much did it cost?”

“I don’t know. A lot, I bet.”

“Is that why you’d save it from a fire?  Because it cost a lot?”

“Partly. Partly I just like it.”

“Pretty big book for a little kid like you.”

“Who’s little?”

“You understand every word in it?”

“Most of ’em. I look up the rest.”

“He looks up the rest. What in?”

“Monsieur Vignes gave me a Webster’s. It’s a library all by itself.”

“Webster’s, eh?” Navarre smiled. “I were you, I’d hang on to that one. Let Vignes hang onto his Dickens til the fire burns out. May I continue?”

I let him, and kept any further interruptions to a minimum. That may have been a mistake. By degrees, his telling grew purple as a hanged man’s tongue.



This is part four of five from a new short story. See also part one, part two, part three, and part five.

Artwork by Jacquelyn Campaña.


David Kipen is the founder of the nonprofit Libros Schmibros Lending Library in Boyle Heights, a lecturer on the UCLA faculty, and a Critic-at-Large of the LA Times. His Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters will be published Fall 2018 by Modern Library. The Américas will be his first novel, and he welcomes your kibitzing at kipend@gmail.com.

Copyright: © 2017 David Kipen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Américas: Chapter the Third


David Kipen

“What’s your name, kid?” the sodden wayfarer asked.

“Francisco P. Ramirez.”

“What’s the P. stand for?”

“Not Pancho.”

“Not Pancho. Fair enough.”

“What’s your name?”

“That’s complicated.”

“Your name is complicated?”

“I’ve had a few.”

“Pick one.”

“We don’t have much time.”

I had plenty of time.

“Why do you need La Jefa?” I asked.

“I need to get a message to la capital.

“Racing homers only fly one way. Monsieur Vigne has had La Jefa for years. He had a sweetheart once in Mexico City, yet he never sent her a message for fear no one would bring La Jefa back. La Jefa is for an emergency only, and love isn’t an emergency.”

“Shit, you are twelve.”

“What’s the message?”

“Do you know about the Mexican War?”

“Fourteen-year-olds must be very stupid where you come from. I know from the newspapers.”

“Newspapers. What good are newspapers in the West? By the time you read about war, there’s peace. By the time you read about peace, there’s war. You might as well study ancient history. At least Gibbon gets the dates right. The daily press is just fast enough to be wrong.”

“So why are you a journalist?”

“I ask myself the same thing every day. All right, what does the press tell you about the Mexican War?”

“Depends on the paper. The Mexican ones call it the American War.”

“A war doesn’t care what you call it. What’s the last newspaper you read about this ‘American War’?”

“Someone left a Santa Fe New Mexican from Christmas on the Friday stage. The driver saves them for me. He brought me one from New Year’s the week before. It gets confusing sometimes. But the New Year’s one said the treaty talks in la capital broke down. What’s the last you read?”

“It’s all out of date,” he sighed. “All of it. That’s why I need your Jefe. I know something about Mexico that even Mexico doesn’t know.”

“Something that fits around the leg of a pigeon?”

“Could be.”

“Is that what you had in your hand? When you tried to free La Jefa?”

“Hijo, enough with the questions. Do I get the bird or don’t I? I haven’t slept two hours together for three nights straight.”

“Then you’d better tell me the story while you’re still awake.”

“You’d better let me sleep or you’ll never get the story.”

I thought fast.

“Tell me the story or I’ll throttle the bird myself, and then where will you be?”

“You’ve been reading more than just newspapers, haven’t you? Put some coffee on. Have they heard of John Sutter’s Fort down here? Oh, and call me Navarre.”



This is part three of five from a new short story. See also part one, part two, part four, and part five.

Artwork by Jacquelyn Campaña.


David Kipen is the founder of the nonprofit Libros Schmibros Lending Library in Boyle Heights, a lecturer on the UCLA faculty, and a Critic-at-Large of the LA Times. His Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters will be published Fall 2018 by Modern Library. The Américas will be his first novel, and he welcomes your kibitzing at kipend@gmail.com.

Copyright: © 2017 David Kipen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Américas: Chapter the Second


David Kipen

Before the hulking stranger on the floor of the pigeon shed recovered his wits, I got my first good look at him. He must have had to bend almost double to cross the doorsill, so tall he seemed. He looked Californian—black-haired, brown at the hands, red in the face, and badly sun-burnt around his thick, sugared beard. If I wanted to pursue newspapering, M. Vignes had said, I had better learn to notice details.

The man opened his eyes with a ready, well-worn smile, then groaned and sank back as his situation rushed in upon him. His eyes never left me.

The voice was raw, but he spoke English like an Englishman. “What are you,” he asked, “fourteen? Twelve?”

“I thought you were a burro,” I said. When interviewing, M. Vignes had also counseled, you ask the questions.

“Not a burro,” he said, “but close. I’m a reporter.”

“A reporter? Have I read anything of yours? Who do you work for?” I tried unsuccessfully to conceal my excitement. “The Californian? Noticioso de Ambos Mundos?” I paused in awe. “Reuters?”

“I’ve been fired from all of them. Twice by the same editor at Ambos Mundos. Now I’m with El Clamor Publico out of Madrid…?”

“We only get the papers that come through on the stage,” I admitted. “I don’t know that one.”

“I get that a lot. Madrid and I haven’t heard from each other in a while, anyway. But if I’ve been fired, nobody told me about it.”

“Are you here on a story?”

The journalist closed his eyes with an expression of great weariness, then opened them wide and looked over at La Jefa.

“I need to borrow your bird.”

“La Jefa? She’s not mine to borrow. Besides, nobody borrows a racing homer. Turn this one loose, she’ll make straight for Mexico City and never look back.”

Thoughtfully, not expecting much, the journalist reached for his hip. He barely registered his disappointment.

“It’s in a safe place,” I said.

“I need your bird,” he repeated. “I’ll bring her back if I have to walk both ways.”

“But Paul Reuter gave her to Monsieur Vignes himself!”

The journalist closed his eyes again. He looked tired of thinking. Then he reached into the other pocket.

“If that bastard Reuter were here,” he said, “he’d offer you this.”

Of a sudden, the palm of his outstretched hand brimmed with yellow dust. He poured it onto the deal table between us. It formed a small cone there. What remained of the candle made the pile glint, and his eyes with it.

“Is that—”


“How do you know?”

“I passed through Georgia in the thirties. I know.”

“Where did you get it?”

“Do you want some or don’t you?”

I loved M. Vignes, but my father owed him a fortune. Now it was my turn to think.

“I want something better,” I said at length.

“Oh, no,” he said

“I want to hear the story.”



This is part two of five from a new short story. See also part one, part three, part four, and part five.

Artwork by Jacquelyn Campaña.

David Kipen
is the founder of the nonprofit Libros Schmibros Lending Library in Boyle Heights, a lecturer on the UCLA faculty, and a Critic-at-Large of the LA Times. His Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters will be published Fall 2018 by Modern Library. The Américas will be his first novel, and he welcomes your kibitzing at kipend@gmail.com.

Copyright: © 2017 David Kipen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Américas: Chapter the First


David Kipen

A note to the reader: Only the most improbable parts of this story are true. Yes, for nine days in 1848, between the discovery of gold on the south fork of the American River and the signing in Mexico City of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico was the richest country in the world and didn’t know it. Yes, gold was discovered twice in California, once in the Sierra Nevada in 1848, but once six years before that in Placerita Canyon, near Santa Clarita. And yes, in the 1850s, the best journalist in Los Angeles was a teenager named Francisco P. Ramirez, in whose ink-blackened hands I leave you now…

…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…
— Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Los Angeles, late January, 1848

If I hadn’t burned a second candle to work on my newspaper that night, California might still belong to Mexico.

Under its glow, on the quadrille sheets that M. Vignes had vouchsafed me for the purpose, I traced out the titles of “ P-U-B-L-I-S-H-E-R,” “E-D-I-T-O-R-S” AND “S-T-A-F-F.” Across the page, modestly, I printed “F-R-A-N-C-I-S-C-O P-. R-A-M-I-R-E-Z” but once.

Months into my journalistic career, I still hadn’t decided for good whether to publish my newspaper in Spanish, as I’d been doing; in English, as I could do just as easily; in French, as M. Vignes might have liked; or all three, which would certainly fill up each number in a hurry. Ornate as I could make it, in my best freehand approximation of blackletter script, I had sketched in the most versatile placeholder I could think of: The Américas.

Now came the hard part. El Pueblo de los Angeles in those days didn’t have much news, except for all the murders. Hardly a week-end went by without a white man shot. If nobody was shooting any white men this week, someone was surely getting lynched for shooting one last week. Where was the news in that?

If they couldn’t find a white man’s killer to hang, even a Californian’s murderer would do. Next thing you know, there’d be necktie parties just for shooting an Indian. Pretty soon, it’d be news if a week went by without somebody kilt or strung up for it.


And that’s how I got the idea. Carefully, with one large capital letter centered in each quartet of squares, I roughed out a headline: “NOBODY DIES IN BLOODY AFFRAY THIS WEEK.” A little long, but I could fix that later. I wasn’t altogether sure what an “AFFRAY” was, but I liked how it went with “BLOODY.”

It wasn’t literally true. Mr. Temple had challenged Sr. Sepulveda to an affair of honor just the day before. At the hour of truth, however, Temple repented his choice to shoot such a good customer, and so contented himself with killing Sepulveda’s second instead. Sepulveda insisted on satisfaction, but Temple’s own second ran away before it could be obtained.

So my best headline yet, “NOBODY DIES IN BLOODY AFFRAY THIS WEEK,” was also my first published lie. M. Vignes says every writer needs an editor to keep him honest, but I couldn’t afford one on my allowance. The question now was what to do next. That first lie opened up so many possibilities.

My candle hissed and flickered. Outside, the river whispered through the alders. The rio and the pueblo, the Sierra Madres to the north,— except for the snoring of a thousand souls and the occasional gunshot, all was quiet. With the moon gone, the night sky shone bright enough to read by.

Behind me, plump and fussy, each of M. Vignes’s famous pigeons dozed or burbled in their ranked cages, pecking greedily after some last leftover grains from dinner.

And then, outside the window, I heard it: a scraping sound, like an animal rooting among the grapevines. This had happened before. Last year a burro had escaped the corral and ripped out six of Father’s rows before we finally got him untangled. I knew I should go investigate, but I had few enough choreless hours for my newspaper without having to police vineyards for runaway livestock. It was probably just a covey of quail, come down to the river to drink.

My pen was thirsty too. I applied myself to my page.

No sooner had I re-dipped the quill than I heard it again, closer now. It was definitely a burro, probably the same one. My father should long since have sold the brute to M. Vignes, whose farmhands knew how to tie a knot that would hold, but Father could give a burro lessons in stubbornness.

I stepped outside and felt the cool breeze off the river. The burro was nowhere to be seen. In the distance, a lonesome coyote howled. A fish jumped, and I did too.

Neck prickling, I decided to make one quick circuit of the pigeon shed and return to my labors. I walked halfway round the shed to the small window in the back wall, opposite the door. Framed right there, I saw him, already inside—tall as a giant, wet black hair dripping down between desperate eyes, candleshadows from the taper on the table dancing wildly at his back. Then I watched dumbly as, with the same key I had idly left in the keyhole, he locked me out.

I wanted to run, to wake M. Vignes or even my father, but there was too much of value in the shed to turn my back on. Not only the next issue of The Américas, scarcely begun, but my first seven issues as well, still sitting unprinted under the desk, awaiting typesetting as soon as M. Vignes’s old Ramage press returned from its statewide rounds. Even more important were his prized racing homer pigeons, fluttering in consternation as, even now, the drenched figure drew himself up as if to loose them. From the pocket of his long duster, he withdrew a scrap of cigarette paper.

The pigeoncote took up most of a wall, four cages high and four across. Each bore the name of a different destination: the small, overworked birds for San Pedro, San Gabriel and San Fernando; the larger ones for settlements south as far as Loreto; one muy fuerte for Albuquerque; and, for La Ciudad de Mexico, proudest of all, La Jefa.

Most pigeons are even more moronic when they’re scared, but La Jefa now looked as intelligent as I’d ever seen her. She shrank from the man’s approach as he reached straight for her padlock and yanked.

The hasp held. Implacable, the man replaced the scrap of paper in his pocket and drew a revolver from his sideholster, ready to hammer the lock free. Squawking, audible even from this side of the window, La Jefa squeezed herself against the mesh at the back of her cage.

As if remorseful for contemplating violence against such a defenseless creature, the man paused. Then, slowly as an automaton in a belltower clock, he turned his weapon toward me.

Our eyes met. The man indicated the padlock and gestured meaningfully at me with the revolver.

Not knowing how else to pantomime it, I tapped my forehead.

I could see in his staring eyes that my import was clear: He had the key to the shed, but only I knew where to find the key to the cage. It was a standoff.

Maybe here I might mention that I hate standoffs. Playing at pistolero, I’ve always found them silly. If you could shoot me and I could shoot you, we should shoot each other instanter, not hesitate like two Frenchmen approaching the same threshold.

My adversary in the pigeon shed must have hated standoffs, too. He lowered his weapon, unlocked the door and motioned for me to come around. Then, he fainted.


This is part one of a five part short story. See also part two, part three, part four, and part five.

Artwork by Jacquelyn Campaña.

David Kipen
is the founder of the nonprofit Libros Schmibros Lending Library in Boyle Heights, a lecturer on the UCLA faculty, and a Critic-at-Large of the LA Times. His Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters will be published Fall 2018 by Modern Library. The Américas will be his first novel, and he welcomes your kibitzing at kipend@gmail.com.

Copyright: © 2017 David Kipen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Linking the Future of Dreamers to California’s Future

3_Oakley_taken at the LBC College childcare center when he was president_ he'd visit students and ask them what they wanted to be

Taken at LBC College childcare center when Oakley was president. He’d visit students and ask them what they wanted to be.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Growing up in the Florence-Firestone area of South Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, I didn’t hear a lot of talk about Dreamers or undocumented students. In a community that was 86 percent Latino and 13 percent African-American, and where less than 2.5 percent of residents had earned a bachelor’s degree, most of the focus was on running from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, la Migra, or a gang fight. Everyone just did their best to survive. There was talk about who had a green card or who was a “wetback,” but no one really cared. Everyone was family, except, of course, the Sheriff or la Migra. My family was typical. My dad was a U.S. citizen from Texas who was schooled in Mexico, and my mom immigrated from Mexico with her three sisters. I had uncles and family friends who ran the gamut when it came to immigration status. The one thing that everyone had in common, in addition looking for any excuse to hold a barbeque, was that they all came to California to make a better life for their children and loved ones. Although the Florence-Firestone neighborhood was hardly Mayberry, it was better than what everyone had left behind. It was California.

It wasn’t until the days of Governor Pete Wilson that I ever felt uncomfortable about being a Mexican-American, or growing up with family and friends who were suddenly considered “aliens” bad for California. It was a confusing time, and it forced many children of immigrants like myself to reconcile what it meant to be the son of an immigrant with being a native Californian. Ironically, as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, I visit that past every time I walk into a board meeting and think about how one former regent who served in the 1990s helped shape a negative attitude toward students who shared my heritage. That past, in fact, shapes my service as a Regent today.

Although California survived that period, there remains haunting shadows of that past which are clearly visible in this new Trump era, an era in which a growing number of anti-immigration sentiment, much of which is based not on facts but on emotion, is taking hold. Sadly, such sentiment ignores the facts—that our undocumented immigrants are critical to our economy, are serving in our military to protect our freedoms, and are working hard to become our future leaders. They are hardly a drain on society. In California alone, the state’s estimated 2.7 million undocumented immigrants are paying an estimated $3 billion in taxes each year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.[1]

According to the Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, those who have been accepted into the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are an average age of 22 and are employed. Most are still in school. Nearly 1 in 5 are seeking an advanced degree. And in California, the number of DACA recipients enrolled in colleges and universities stands at more than 72,000, which means that nearly one-third of all DACA recipients in the state are in the process of earning a college degree or certificate.[2]

What’s more, because they are better educated and are among our most productive workers, deporting the estimated 750,000 DACA recipients nationwide would cost the federal government $60 billion, along with $280 billion in losses to the U.S. economy over 10 years.

The memories of my experiences with anti-immigrant rhetoric remind me every day of the importance to make clear to the undocumented students in the California Community Colleges system that they are welcomed and valued. They need to know that just as California survived Propositions 187 and 209, they will survive the nonsense of “the wall.” The Dreamers in our colleges today are hungry to give back, to make our state even greater, and to raise their families in the light of the California Dream. Our colleges give first, second, and third chances to all Californians, and because of the struggles of all our students, including Dreamers, our communities are better places to live.

Human potential is everywhere throughout our state. Potential does not recognize residency or legal status. For many, coming to California was not a choice they themselves made. And capturing their potential is key to our future. Within our communities resides the next scientist who will find a cure for cancer, the next transformational artist, the next Steve Jobs, or the next governor of California. Why wouldn’t we educate and cultivate the potential of every resident in California?

I am privileged to serve in a system of higher education that believes in this potential and that proudly proclaims that we serve the top 100 percent of students in California regardless or immigration status, skin color, religion, or how or whom they love. California community colleges are the gateway to a higher education for the majority of people in our state and serve as the state’s engine of economic mobility. That is why our colleges are so important to the future of all Californians and why the future of California is so closely tied to our ability to capture the potential of all our students.



[1] “State and Local Tax Contributions of Undocumented Californians: County-by- County Data,” 24 April 2017, https://itep.org/state-and-local-tax-contributions-of-undocumented-californians-county-by–county-data/#.WQdqr4grKJA

[2] Ike Brannon and Logan Albright, “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Repealing DACA,” Cato at Liberty, 18 January 2017, https://www.cato.org/blog/economic-fiscal-impact-repealing-daca.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley has served as Chancellor for the California Community Colleges since 19 December 2016. Before this, he served as the Superintendent-President of the Long Beach Community College District from 2007, where he led one of the most diverse community colleges in the nation and provided statewide and national leadership on the issue of improving the education outcomes of historically underrepresented students. For his efforts, the James Irvine Foundation recognized him with their 2014 Leadership Award. In 2014, Governor Brown appointed Oakley to the University of California Board of Regents and in November 2016, President Obama recognized him as a White House Champion of Change for his work promoting and supporting the national college promise movement.

Copyright: © 2017 Eloy Ortiz Oakley. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/



California Dreaming? The Integration of Immigrants into American Society

vignette edit-1

Kevin R. Johnson

Immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are unquestionably members of our communities across the United States. Currently, roughly eleven million undocumented immigrants live and work in this country.[1] Employers demand their labor, and immigrants want the work. Nonetheless, the people of United States have long been ambivalent about immigrants. Even in California, now viewed as a pro-immigrant bastion, more attention historically was given to reduce the immigrant population rather than to facilitate the integration of immigrants into American social life.

Consider one stunning example. California voters in 1994 by a 2-1 margin passed an immigration milestone, Proposition 187,[2] known by its supporters as the “Save our State” initiative. The initiative would have banned undocumented students from public schools, required police to report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, and denied undocumented immigrants access to nearly every state public benefit programs. The California legislature subsequently passed a series of laws of the same ilk, including a particularly noxious one that prohibited the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants (even though there was no evidence of any safety or security problems with the state’s long history of licensing—and safety-testing—undocumented drivers).

With its widely publicized Proposition 187, California unfortunately proved to be a trendsetter for the nation. Following the initiative’s lead, Congress’ 1996 welfare reform legislation stripped many legal immigrants of federal public benefits.[3] More than a decade later, a number of other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina, passed tough immigration enforcement laws that were, in important respects, similar to Proposition 187.[4]

As Bob Dylan famously said: the times, they are a changing’. Indeed, we are witnessing nothing less than a sea change in state and local policy directed at immigrants in the United States and California again is at the forefront. However, the current trajectory in sub-federal immigration policy—pro-immigrant integration, not pro-immigration enforcement—is dramatically different than it was in the heyday of Proposition 187. Ironically enough, the nation has President Donald Trump, an immigration hawk like no other, to thank.

California’s Changed Responses to Immigrants

Responding to Trump: California Seeks to Promote Immigrant Integration

As promised in the 2016 campaign, President Trump from his first days in office pursued aggressive immigration enforcement measures, ranging from executive orders banning travel from predominantly Muslim nations to mass deportations to announcing steps toward building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border and threats of even greater enforcement efforts. Those steps provoked an immediate and inspired response from many state and local governments—and especially from California. Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon, led the opposition to the Trump administration’s call for ever-greater immigration enforcement. The resistance has been fueled in no small part by the growing awareness among California lawmakers of the need for increased legal protections for immigrants, among the state’s most vulnerable residents, from the Trump immigration onslaught. The reaction is rooted in notions of fundamental fairness and the firm belief that the aggressive immigration enforcement agenda embraced by the Trump administration threatens to tear families apart, harm communities, and sow widespread human misery, all in the name of “enforcing the law.”


The reaction is rooted in notions of fundamental fairness and the firm belief that the aggressive immigration enforcement agenda embraced by the Trump administration threatens to tear families apart, harm communities, and sow widespread human misery, all in the name of “enforcing the law.”

Abandoning the punitive approach toward immigrants exemplified by Proposition 187, California for more than a decade has been at the forefront of taking steps to more fully integrate undocumented immigrant residents into the social fabric. Consider just a few contemporary examples. In 2001, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 540, a path-breaking law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state fees at California community colleges and universities.[5] This law, which represents a meaningful step toward greater educational access for all residents, commenced a trend among the states. Several years later, the legislature went further and passed the California DREAM Act, which made undocumented college students eligible for state scholarships to help them pay for their education.[6]

Not limiting its efforts to higher education, the California legislature took a number of other steps to promote the integration of the state’s immigrant population. Seeking to facilitate the trust of immigrants in local police officers (who, in turn, need the cooperation of immigrants, and all members of the community, to most effectively protect the public safety), the legislature in 2013 passed the TRUST Act,[7] which restricts state and local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities. Among other things, it prohibits the detention of immigrants longer than required by law so that federal officers can, if they so desire, take the noncitizens into custody. The TRUST Act represented a response to the U.S. government’s hyper-aggressive Secure Communities program,[8] which greatly expanded the criminal justice removal pipeline for immigrants who had minor (as well serious) brushes with the law and directly resulted in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people a year. In addition, after considerable debate and years of grassroots activism, the California legislature restored driver’s license eligibility for undocumented immigrants,[9] a significant practical step toward allowing undocumented immigrants to participate more fully in economic and social life, reducing fears of removal due to something as mundane and ordinary as operating a motor vehicle. Showing just how far the state had come from the dark days of Proposition 187, the California Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that a California law allowed undocumented immigrants to be licensed to practice law.[10]

In response to the Trump administration’s strident immigration enforcement agenda, the California legislature is active about taking steps to restrict state and local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Indeed, the legislature sought nothing less than to declare California to be a “sanctuary state,” a bill (SB 54) that Governor Jerry Brown signed 5 October 2017, which takes effect January 2018.[11]

Other state and local efforts to facilitate the integration of immigrants into civil society, which are wholly consistent with federal law, might include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Pursuing additional policies that encourage the cooperation of immigrants with criminal law enforcement authorities;
  2. Ensuring adequate access to English-as-second-language programs so that immigrants are better able to acquire English language skills and better assimilate into U.S. society;
  3. Providing that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are generally eligible for state and local licenses necessary to engage in certain professions and occupations (from building contractors to hair dressers) and more fully participate in the American economy; and
  4. Making noncitizens eligible for public benefits programs that are part of the economic safety net for other residents.

Recent years have seen the emergence of tensions between the federal, state, and local governments about immigration enforcement and immigration policy. While state and local governments increasingly seek to protect their immigrant residents, President Trump has disparaged many of those state and local efforts as “sanctuary” policies that undermine the enforcement of U.S. immigration law. His administration has gone so far as to threaten to eliminate federal funding to “sanctuary cities.”

We should not forget that state and local governments play important roles in ensuring the inclusion of all residents, including immigrants. Such efforts include steps by state and local governments to promote immigrant integration. State and local measures that move us toward a society in which immigrants are full members of the community, not marginalized peoples living in the shadows, deserve support and encouragement. The Trump administration unfortunately attacks, disparages, and derides those laws and policies.


Why California’s Immigration Turnaround?—The Response to Proposition 187

One might wonder on the issue of immigration policy from 1994 to 2017 what explains the stark political turnaround in California. The short answer is that Proposition 187 changed everything.

First of all, passage of the anti-immigrant milestone spurred a generation of engaged political activism. In Proposition 187’s wake, naturalization rates for immigrants spiked and hundreds of thousands of immigrants became newly-minted U.S. citizens (and part of the electorate). In turn, increasing numbers of Latina/o citizens voted, including recently naturalized ones. Not surprisingly, the number of Latina/o elected to the California legislature grew significantly and Republican legislators slowly but surely dwindled in numbers. The legislature’s racial and political composition changed with the election of increasing numbers of Latina/os and Democrats came to dominate the legislature. In fact, California Pete Wilson, who won re-election largely due to his ardent support for Proposition 187, was later effectively exiled, as it were, from California politics, having forever alienated the growing Latina/o electorate.

When all was said and done Proposition 187 dramatically changed the trajectory of California law and policy toward immigrants, as well as the state’s entire political landscape. One can only wonder whether President Trump’s immigration enforcement priorities might ultimately result in a similar political reaction on a national scale.

Providing Counsel to Immigrants Facing Removal

The specter of greatly increased removal efforts by the Trump administration has provoked great fear in immigrant communities. The “Trump effect” has led states and local governments to adopt laws and policies that protect immigrant members of communities and promote their integration. Some state and local governments have looked to provide the most fundamental protection for immigrants resisting removal—ensuring access to legal representation.

Having campaigned on a platform that included tough immigration enforcement, Donald Trump did not surprise most Americans when soon after his inauguration he announced aggressive immigration enforcement measures, including four executive orders on immigration in his first three months in office. States have taken a number of measures intended to moderate the adverse impacts of those tough policies. More are under consideration, including proposals to provide greater access to counsel to immigrants facing removal from the United States.

Unlike the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of counsel to criminal defendants, the U.S immigration laws fail to ensure that immigrants, legal and undocumented, have an attorney in removal proceedings, which are classified as civil in nature.[12] Similar to the movement in the twentieth century to ensure that indigent criminal defendants are provided with attorneys, an organized movement has emerged to ensure legal representation for all immigrants facing removal from the United States.

Guaranteed representation for immigrants facing removal is only fair. As the Supreme Court has emphasized, a deportation hearing can “result in the loss of all that makes life worth living.”[13] That alone suggests the great need for guaranteed representation for immigrants facing deportation. Moreover, the nature of the U.S. immigration laws, which are rivaled for complexity only by the Internal Revenue Code, makes an attorney essential. In addition, the vast majority of immigrants, due to language and culture differences, cannot reasonably be expected to fully comprehend the many nuances, legal and otherwise, of the removal process.

The bottom line is that, absent legal representation, an immigrant facing removal faces nearly insurmountable odds in staving off deportation. Not surprisingly, the available evidence in fact demonstrates that represented immigrants successfully resist removal at much higher rates than unrepresented immigrants.[14]

Scholars for years have argued for guaranteeing counsel to immigrants facing removal from the United States.[15] In direct response to the Trump administration’s tough immigration stances, state and local governments in growing numbers are beginning to allocate funds for attorneys to represent immigrants facing removal.[16] For example, the California budget approved in 2017 provides $15 million to help secure counsel for immigrants facing deportation.[17]


One Model: The University of California’s Immigrant Legal Services Center

For several years running, the Obama administration set records by removing some 400,000 immigrants a year. Young undocumented immigrants were among the immigrants caught in the crossfire.

To begin addressing pressing immigrant student needs, the University of California (UC) in 2015 created a form of student services never before seen in higher education.[18] In establishing the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center (later renamed the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center),[19] the University demonstrated how it can serve all students—including immigrants—and the greater community of the state of California.

Created by UC President Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security who was responsible for enforcement of the U.S. immigration laws, the Immigrant Legal Services Center serves the unique legal needs of undocumented students and their parents. Housed at the UC Davis School of Law, home of a well-established Immigration Law Clinic[20] as well as a group of influential immigration law scholars, the Center provides legal services to undocumented students and their families on the UC campuses at Irvine, Merced, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. (The only other UC campus, UC Berkeley, has its own legal assistance program for immigrants.)

One critically important feature of the center’s representation warrants explanation. The idea behind extending services to the parents of undocumented UC students involves a well-researched common sense phenomenon: students are in a significantly better position to succeed academically if they do not fear that their parents are at risk of removal.

The Center has plenty of potential clients, with more coming in with every new entering class. Several hundred undocumented students are enrolled at each of the campuses of the University of California system. Many of them are from Mexico or Central America. However, the University has undocumented students literally from around the world, including Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The efforts of the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center immeasurably benefit undocumented students and their families. Many of the students are eligible for relief under the U.S. immigration laws that stabilize their daily lives and, as a result, help to improve their academic success.

At the time that the Center was founded, attorneys expected to focus on assisting students with applications for relief under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was originally created in 2012 and dismantled by President Trump in 2017.[21] However, the legal work proved to be much more varied than initially anticipated. Some students and their family members are eligible for immigrant visas as well as citizenship. They need legal help to identify the potential ways of regularizing their immigration status and to navigate the complex, and often lengthy, bureaucratic process. Many students understandably want to regularize their immigration status so they are able to come and go from the United States and thus can participate in study abroad programs just like many other college students do. Some students are eligible for various forms of relief from removal under the U.S. immigration laws but need legal assistance to identify and collect the information necessary to make their case.

The Quest for Justice for All (Including Immigrants)

As with the efforts to provide legal representation, state and local governments must focus on how to best address the needs of all residents, including immigrants, and strive to ensure that immigrants are treated as full members of society. One important way to do so is provide attorneys to represent immigrants facing removal from the United States. As has been discussed, state and local governments are making efforts to do so. California has been at the forefront of the movement but the state of New York and many cities, including Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C., as well as Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, have already taken steps to assisting immigrant residents secure representation.

Through measures to help ensure counsel for all immigrants facing deportation, we see public support for a more procedurally fair and legitimate system—and one consistent with the ideal of “justice for all.” Through providing legal representation and taking other measures to protect immigrant residents, state and local governments are pursuing their proper role of facilitating the integration of immigrants into civil society. In the past, popular immigration enforcement laws, such as Proposition 187 and Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 that the Supreme Court invalidated in large part,[22] which made state and local police central to immigrant enforcement, had the opposite effect. Far from promoting immigrant integration, these laws have de-stabilized immigrant communities and marginalized, not integrated, significant numbers of state and local residents.

Through measures to help ensure counsel for all immigrants facing deportation, we see public support for a more procedurally fair and legitimate system—and one consistent with the ideal of “justice for all.”

Lawyers unquestionably can help to protect the rights of immigrants. Other state and local immigrant integration measures can as well. In pursuing such measures, California hopefully can provide guidance to the nation and encourage other state and local governments to pursue immigrant integration strategies.

In the long run, however, state and local governments can only do so much to reduce the harsh impacts of the U.S. immigration laws on immigrants. Fundamental change to those laws is necessary to bring full justice to immigrants. To that end, Congress at some point must overhaul the antiquated Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which was forged at the height of the Cold War and is not well-suited to addressing the nation’s 21st century immigration needs. In such comprehensive reform efforts, the labor needs of the United States and the precarious status of undocumented immigrants living here will need to be addressed.



[1] Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, “Overall Number of U.S. Unauthorized Immigrants Holds Steady Since 2009,” Pew Research Center, 20 September 2016, available at http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/20/overall-number-of-u-s-unauthorized-immigrants-holds-steady-since-2009/.

[2] California Proposition 187, Illegal Aliens Ineligible for Public Benefits (1994), Ballotpedia, available at https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_187,Illegal_Aliens_Ineligible_for_Public_Benefits(1994).

[3] Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105.

[4] The immigration enforcement laws of these other states suffered the same fate as Proposition 187: the courts struck them down. See, for example Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012); United States v. South Carolina, 720 F.3d 518 (4th Cir. 2013); United States v. Alabama, 691 F.3d 1269 (11th Cir. 2012); Georgia Latino Alliance v. Human Rights v. Deal, 691 F.3d 1250 (11th Cir. 2012).

[5] California Assembly Bill 540, Cal. Legis. 2000-01 (codified at Cal. Ed. Code § 68130.5).

[6] California Assembly Bills 130, 131, Cal. Legis. 2010-11.

[7] California Assembly Bill 4, 2013 Cal. Stat 4650 (codified at Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 7282-7282.5).

[8] Due to state and local resistance to the impacts of Secure Communities, President Obama discontinued that program in November 2014; President Trump, however, reactivated it in January 2017. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secure Communities, available http://www.ice.gov/secure-communities.

[9] AB-60 Driver’s License in California, DMV.ORG, available at https://perma.cc/U9VN-9JMR.

[10] In re Garcia, 58 Cal. 4th 440 (2014).

[11] Jasmine Ulloa, “California becomes ‘sanctuary state’ in rebuke of Trump immigration policy,” Los Angeles Times, 5 October 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-brown-california-sanctuary-state-bill-20171005-story.html.

[12] Immigration and Nationality Act § 292, 8 U.S.C. § 1362 (providing that noncitizens can be represented in removal proceedings “at no expense to the Government”).

[13] Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, 147 (1945) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

[14] Ingrid V. Eagly and Steven Shafer, “A National Study of Access to Counsel in Immigration Court,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 164 (2015): 1.

[15] See, for example, Kevin R. Johnson, “An Immigration Gideon for Lawful Permanent Residents,” Yale Law Journal 122 (2013): 2394; Mark Nofieri, “Cascading Constitutional Deprivation: The Right to Be Appointed Counsel for Mandatorily Detained Immigrants Pending Removal Proceedings,” Michigan Journal of Race and Law 18 (2012): 63

[16] Jennifer M. Chacón, “Privatized Immigration Enforcement,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 52 (2017): 1, 6 (noting that “some states and localities with large numbers of noncitizen residents have begun to provide funding for immigrant representation”).

[17] Katy Murphy, “California Budget Deal Includes Deportation Defense Fund for Undocumented Immigrants,” San Jose Mercury, 16 June 2017, http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/16/california-budget-deal-includes-deportation-defense-for-undocumented-immigrants/.

[18] Kevin R. Johnson, “New UC Center Serves a Most Vulnerable Student Population: A New Trend in Higher Education?” Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 14 December 2015, p. 24.

[19] UC Immigrant Legal Services Center, available at https://law.ucdavis.edu/ucimm/.

[20] For a discussion of the creation of the clinic and its pedagogical and social justice goals, see Kevin R. Johnson and Amagda Pérez, “Clinical Legal Education and the U.C. Davis Immigration Law Clinic: Putting Theory into Practice and Practice into Theory,” SMU Law Review 51(1998): 1423.

[21] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), available at https://www.usic.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca.

[22] Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012).

Kevin R. Johnson
is Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest, Law and Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Davis School of Law. Quoted regularly by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other national and international news outlets, he studied at Harvard Law School where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. His book, Immigration Law and the US-Mexico Border (2011), received the Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards award for Best Reference Book, and he blogs at ImmigrationProf and as a regular contributor on immigration on SCOTUSblog.

Copyright: © 2017 Kevin R. Johnson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Martin Luther King Jr.’s L.A. Bomb Scare

Patrick Parr

This is not the life I expected to lead. But gradually you take some responsibility, then a little more, until finally you are not in control anymore. You have to give yourself entirely. Then once you make up your mind that you are giving yourself, then you are prepared to do anything that serves the Cause and the Movement. I have reached that point. I have no option anymore about what I will do. I have given myself fully.

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[1]

The bomb scare that night was the least of his worries. As far as death threats were concerned, Dr. King had experienced his fair share of close calls. His home had been bombed—he’d been stabbed with a letter opener, hit with rocks, eggs, fists, and arrested over fifteen times. And, yes, there had been plenty of bomb scares similar to what occurred inside the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on the night of 16 October 1967.

Dr. King visited the University of Southern California campus to deliver a speech titled “The Negro in America.” He flew United Airlines and arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport at 6:35 p.m., appearing calm yet tired. At this stage of his life, King had become more controversial than ever to the American public. He’d publicly denounced the Vietnam War in a fiery April 1967 speech in New York, angering not only pro-war advocates but also his own supporters who believed he was moving himself away from his core cause of civil rights. He’d gained weight over the years, and grew numb to the fear of losing his life.[2]

Dr. King’s Los Angeles visit was preceded by a similar speech delivered on Sacramento State College’s football field, speaking out on Vietnam to an audience of several thousand: “Our nation is trying to fight two wars at the same time, the war in Vietnam and the war on poverty, and is losing both.”[3] As soon as he finished, King headed for the local airport. According to the late journalist David Halberstam, this was Dr. King’s routine: “Most of King’s life is spent going to airports, and it is the only time to talk to him.”[4]

In Los Angeles, he was greeted by a USC committee and guided to a car. As had become his standard outfit, King wore a black suit, rumpled from the flight, with a white collared shirt and gray tie. Some, such as then Daily Trojan editor Hal Lancaster, were able to see King up close, and what affected the reporter the most was the fatigue in the reverend’s eyes:. “Any man who averages three hotel rooms a week is bound to be tired.”[5]

After dropping off his luggage at a Hyatt, Dr. King got back into the car and headed for the USC campus. He’d started to wake up and looked out the window of the car, the city of Los Angeles passing by. Dr. King spoke to those in the car about how California and the Catholic Church had “gone backwards” in helping to enact a fair housing plan. One example of ‘fairness,’ would be an attempt to eliminate discrimination while a potential tenant’s application is being processed. As King recalled, California at one time “had an open housing act here and went back and abolished it.” To the reverend, it was simply another case of the church not taking enough social responsibility in the communities where they still held sway. “It has been a great tragedy of the church that this has been considered secondary. The church must be concerned with the total man, his physical as well as spiritual being.”[6]

At 7:45 p.m., Dr. King entered a room inside USC’s Bovard Auditorium. He wanted some time to himself before he went out. As he collected his thoughts, around eighteen hundred people filled the auditorium, eager to see the reverend in the flesh.

He spoke with an urgent vitality—the kind that can perhaps come only after hearing a knock on death’s door—and the crowd was sent to a higher plane of thought.

Just after eight, Dr. King, after an introduction, walked up to the podium. At 5’7” he was not an imposing presence on stage, but this setting had become his second home. Unassuming and mellow off stage, King had a knack for bringing himself to life as he spoke to a crowd. On this night, he started slowly, deliberately, his slow southern drawl allowing everyone to follow his every word. The longer he spoke, the quicker his words came—emotions bubbling to the surface….

But around 8:30 p.m. as Dr. King retold the history and plight of the black American, the L.A. Fire Department received an anonymous phone call from someone who said there was a bomb inside the Bovard Auditorium, and that it would detonate “in fifteen minutes.” With the fear planted, the crowd evacuated Bovard, and Dr. King was taken by campus police to a conference room. Just before leaving the stage, Dr. King wanted to reassure his listeners to “please return because there are some very important things I still have to say.”[7]

They returned, and when Dr. King once again stepped behind the podium, he’d grown somewhat. He spoke with an urgent vitality—the kind that can perhaps come only after hearing a knock on death’s door—and the crowd was sent to a higher plane of thought. Dr. King told the now active audience (many of them students) to deny the ‘myths’ halting the progress of African-Americans.

One of the myths involved time. Just give the cause enough time, and everything will work itself out. But King had no interest in being patient. To him, “time is neutral, and can be used either constructively or destructively.”[8]

Another myth rested in the notion that legislation was unnecessary, and all that was needed was for the general public to have a change of heart.

With his voice booming off the auditorium walls, Dr. King disagreed:

I’m a Baptist preacher, and I’m in the heart-changing business… but while morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated, and while the law can’t make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me.[9]

The biggest round of applause came from his comments on the war in Vietnam. Dr. King surely knew there were hundreds of students anxious of being drafted, and furious over the fact that American soldiers, some family and friends, were being killed every day. Dr. King demanded that America “stand up and say to the world we made a mistake in Vietnam… justice is indivisible, but injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”[10]

The bomb scare had sadly caused Dr. King to leave without what had been a pre-planned question and answer session. He had another plane to catch. A rally in Houston was next, along with two smoke bombs. Immediately after that, King, his brother A.D., Wyatt Walker, and Ralph Abernathy were to report directly to a Birmingham, Alabama prison, obeying a Supreme Court order regarding a long-appealed ‘contempt’ offense that occurred in 1963. Such had been his life ever since giving himself “entirely” to the movement. On the college campuses in Sacramento and Los Angeles, he’d found support among the younger anti-war generation, but these events were few and far between. The appeal of ‘black power’ had taken hold, and King’s message of nonviolence had started to lose its authority over his own supporters.

Fifty years later, the general American public now annually remembers the triumphs of Martin Luther King Jr.—the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize—and we have chosen to idolize him with memorials and statues, and given dozens of schools and highways his name. But these honors are empty if we choose to ignore the sacrifice and message of a man who, according to Christine Farris, King’s sister, was an “ordinary and average man.” Perhaps sociologist Charles Vert Willie, one of King’s friends and college classmates, said it best: “By idolizing those whom we honor, we fail to realize that we could go and do likewise.”[11]


Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inside Bovard Auditorium around 8 p.m., 16 October 1967. Courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Libraries Special Collections.



  • Header image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inside Bovard Auditorium around 8 p.m., 16 October 1967. Courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Libraries Special Collections.

[1] Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969), 163.

[2] Stan Metzler, The Daily Trojan, 16 October 1967.

[3] Long Beach Independent, 17 October 1967, A2 and San Bernardino County Sun AP Report, 17 October 1967, where it appears King delivered similar speeches in Sacramento and Los Angeles on that same day.

[4] David Halberstam, “The Second Coming of Martin Luther King,” Harper’s Magazine, August 1967.

[5] Hal Lancaster, “The Calm Martin Luther King,” The Daily Trojan, 17 October 1967.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Fred Swegles, “Bomb scare considered normal event for King,” The Daily Trojan, 18 October 1967; Melinda Tonks, “Forum continues to draw notable figures,” The Daily Trojan, 18 October 1967.

[8] Stan Metzler, “King’s call for civil action marred by bomb scare,” The Daily Trojan, 17 October 1967.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 579.


Patrick Parr has had his work appear in History Today, The Humanist and The Japan Times, among other publications. His forthcoming book is titled, The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age, coming 2018 with Chicago Review Press.

Copyright: © 2017 Patrick Parr. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/



Undocumented California: An Evening of Readings and Music


Gather with us Thursday 5 October in Tijuana at Cine Tonalá for an evening of friendship, readings, and music, entering the complex realities brought to us by the California/Mexico border. Co-sponsored together with the California Historical Society, we’ll reflect on California border ecology, highlighting our shared identity as Californians, bridge-builders, open to the world.

Come grab a drink, meet Boom writers like Ana Rosas, Tanya Golash-Boza, Zulema Valdez, Ronald Rael, Jemima Pierre, Laura Enriquez, Josh Kun, David Kipen, Daniel Hernandez, Boom editor Jason Sexton, members of Boom’s editorial team, and others to share new readings for this Fall’s Boom series on Undocumented California, making a statement together of our collective values as Californians. We’ll close the night with a special set by Tijuana-raised Ceci Bastida who will debut a new collaboration with Haitian refugees living in the city.

Undocumented California: An Evening of Readings and Music
Thursday, October 5th
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Cine Tonalá, Avenida Revolución 1317, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, BC, Mexico




Mapping LA-tinx Suburbia

Barrio Suburbanism Map Project

“Barrio Suburbanism: Reshaping Metropolitan Geographies,” 2016, http://uclachicanxstudies.github.io/BarrioSuburbs/.

Genevieve Carpio
Andy Rutkowski  

One of the most famous attempts to describe Los Angeles depicts it as an enclave of communities without a focused core; a collective search for a pulse that does not exist. One version of this characterization suggests, “Los Angeles: seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.” Another narrows the scope: “nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis.” Assigned to a series of writers, most famously Dorothy Parker, but also Aldous Huxley and H.L. Mencken, the words reverberate an anxiety about Angelenos’ collective experiences of space.[1] Pointing to the uniqueness of Los Angeles’s geography and topography, it also reveals the challenge of trying to capture the essence of a multi-nodal place with words alone. This essay examines how digital mapping can help to foreground localized knowledges of Los Angeles by introducing a pilot multimedia project called the Barrio Suburbanism Map.

In recent years, the digital-turn has birthed a new version of spatial musings similar to those of Parker, often in the form of maps. Rather than plotting points on a grid, digital mapping often combines practices of cartography, photography, narration, active revision, and public-orientation. These contemporary multimedia renderings demonstrate the continued active and critical searching for what it means to live in metropolitan Los Angeles. From this search, several questions emerge. Who decides what a place is called: barrio, suburb, neighborhood, ghetto, colonized territory? Where are its edges? How does a space become more than a location, but instead a site imbued with meaning? And, to whom? These questions move us beyond the iconic scene of Los Angeles produced from the studios of the Hollywood Hills to the lived experiences of space radiating out from Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights to the Tierra Mia coffee shop in Huntington Park. This essay explores how digital mapping might inform our understanding of metropolitan Los Angeles, both in the academy and beyond. Specifically, by pairing photographs with student ethnographies, the Barrio Suburbanism Map complicates popular perceptions of the suburbs as sites of homogeneity in order to reveal the dynamic diversity of suburbanization in multiracial Los Angeles, with a focus on Latinx communities.

Since the writings of 1920s social commentators, a range of urban historians, planners, creative writers, artists, and preservationists have created a wealth of scholarship and resources concerning Los Angeles and its suburbs: as bustling sites of working class identity, as spaces of queer sociability, and as areas of relocation for urban Chicanxs.[2] Yet, suburbs are habitually understood through the lenses of homeownership, whiteness, middle-class status, and conservatism in popular discourse. These depictions of suburbs eclipse the equally important histories of “triangular race relations” and “relational racialization” exemplified in places like Los Angeles, where complex interactions between race, class, and gender have accompanied the social segmentation of the metropolitan region.[3] Rather than a fixed set of characteristics, suburbia is networked, ever shifting, historically contingent, and defined by much more than political boundaries.[4]

This essay explores how digital mapping can function as an active means for engaging ongoing process of place-making, one that can offer unique contributions to both student learning and public engagement.[5] Beginning with a brief account of digital mapping projects in Greater Los Angeles, this essay provides a series of mosaics from one such project designed by the authors, the Barrio Suburbanism Map. A collaborative research project created by UCLA undergraduates in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, its aims are two-fold. First, it builds upon studies of the barrio and diverse suburbs to examine how these sites operate in multiracial and metropolitan contexts. Second, it foregrounds undergraduate research aimed at reaching a public audience through multimedia mapping. Piloted in an upper-division research seminar in the Winter of 2016, the project asks how Chicana/o and Latina/o populations have impacted the economic, social, and spatial contours of specific suburbs, with attention to how place-making and the built environment have changed over time.

Although academic sources and public humanities projects have identified diverse histories of development in Los Angeles, there is still much work to be done if we hope to uproot the white-picket fence.[6] For instance, many students found a dearth of digital and visual sources highlighting the intersectional histories they had personally experienced, as residents or visitors to these spaces, available within the public domain. Digital mapping provides these students an opportunity to actively engage in the processes of revisionist history and public facing scholarship with the potential to provoke critical discussion about the meanings of these places. And, as an infinitely buildable platform, future students can reply to those conversations through introducing new topical layers to the map over time. Rather than statistics-based work, this is an exercise that can not only historicize, but also humanize national trends in which Latinx, immigrants, refugees, and other historically marginalized populations are increasingly calling suburbs and exurban areas home.[7]

Mapping Place, Constructing Place

Maps are powerfully operative in the ways we understand the world around us. They have been used as tools of empire in far-reaching colonization endeavors and wielded by states to convert the commons into private property. However, as much as they have been used as blunt instruments of the powerful, maps have also served as the tools of everyday people. In many cases, residents who have struggled to be heard at city planning meetings have turned to collaborative mapping, where they identified unrecognized community resources and provided blueprints for alternative futures. Maps do not represent pure truths about the physical world, but rather create space as much as they reflect it. Maps can also help facilitate dynamic conversations about the places we occupy.[8] For instance, a national dialogue concerning urban development and gentrification is taking place through maps, from the views of LA neighborhoods, crafted by the Los Angeles Times, to the interventionist mapping projects of public scholars.[9] Looking to these undertakings helps underscore what might be gained from a similar exploration of Latinx communities in LA suburbs.

Critical cartography teaches us that every line drawn reflects a set of decisions about spatial meaning, social identity, and the boundaries between insiders and outsiders.[10] For instance, in the Los Angeles Times project Mapping L.A., “neighborhoods” are a product of combined staff decisions, census tracts, and reader contributed drawing of geographic boundaries between notable Los Angeles districts.[11] Although disproportionately shaped by the perspectives of “affluent” English-dominant Angelenos, who comprise a sizable share of the newspapers’ readership, the resultant neighborhoods have become the definitive guide to LA neighborhoods.[12] Each map includes extensive neighborhood data, such as ethnicity, housing, income, and education statistics. Prominent among the information provided are crime statistics: violent crime, property crime, time, date, type, location, weekly totals, monthly totals, and a six-month summary.[13] However, the stories of the people who occupy these spaces are lost in the data. When the mismatch between the Los Angeles Times’ readership and the city’s shifting demography combines with the heavy focus on crime statistics, Mapping L.A. may inadvertently create a deficit perspective of working class communities of color. This risk both underscores the limitations of mapping and its uneven consequences when written from a deficit perspective.

In an effort to increase the agency of stakeholders outside traditional map-making processes, asset mapping seeks to identify sites of neighborhood significance from the alternative perspective. Such mapping can raise political consciousness, enhance local knowledge, and build the capacity for community mobilizations with the potential to foster claims to place and secure control over resources.[14] Along these lines, the number of scholars engaging public-facing mapping projects has grown significantly in recent years. In particular, a number of notable Los Angeles based projects have pushed the boundary of mapping technologies and laid the groundwork for new approaches to community engagement. Consider, for instance, the HyperCities project, a collaborative online tool based on Google Earth technology, has served as an incubator for multiple critical cartography projects, including LA-based Historic Filipinotown and Mapping Jewish Los Angeles. Hypercities was one of the first platforms to allow multiple users to layer demographic data (census, etc.) alongside videos, audio, photographs, and other multimedia resources to create an immersive storytelling experience. Another, more recent example, offers a unique and pathbreaking method for community asset mapping: Project Willowbrook. This effort focuses on a workbook model that asks community members to define their own neighborhood. And, there is Ride South L.A.: Watts Ride, a print map designed by local residents using camera phones to document places and routes of interest to bicyclists. In each of these cases, community members use maps to tell their own neighborhood stories and to create a space for dialogue in public forums.

Digital mapping is a tool that fosters reflection about place-making and offers a promising avenue to think through metropolitan Los Angeles and its history. Two trends have combined in recent years to warrant increased attention to Latinx suburbanization, specifically. First, as of 2010, suburbs became the primary site of residential life for the United States as a whole. As a nation, the residential experiences that shape daily life are centered in our suburbs. Second, in 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau found that Latinx communities formed the California majority for the first time in recent history. These trends intersect. According to a joint study by the Pew Hispanic Center and The Brookings Institution, 54 percent of all U.S. Latinxs live in suburbs. The study found that Los Angeles illustrates national trends in which Latinx residents are choosing suburbs and rural areas over city centers and disrupts assumptions that the Latinx community are more concentrated in urban settings.[15] Using the mapping platform Social Explorer, the map below illustrates the Latinx population’s growth across LA census tracts between 1970 and 2015, reflecting a significant growth outside of the central city.[16]

The scholarship on Latinx suburbanization demonstrates that Latinxs make residential choices with many of the same aspirations as other Californians, including access to jobs, opportunities for homeownership, and pursuit of the suburban dream. Yet, their pathways and experiences of suburbia have been, by no means, equal. For early Latinx suburbanites, it meant staying in place as semi-rural colonias were enveloped by suburbanization. For others, it entailed pursuing social mobility through geographic movement from LA’s urban centers and colonias to inner ring suburbs, as both middle class homeowners and working class laborers in areas of new construction. And, for others, suburbanization has been as a strategic response to circular displacement, from the redevelopment of urban centers to dislocation from one’s home country. In each case, many of these Latinx suburbanites face the legacies of racialization, discriminatory lending, and generational spatial inequity.[17] Multimedia mapping can help visualize and narrate these varied histories, as well as where they intersect.

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“Spanish Origin or Descent, 1970,” Satellite, Social Explorer, 12 December 2016. http://www.socialexplorer.com/4b13bfb0ac/view (based on data from Census 1970); “Total Population: Hispanic or Latino,” Satellite, Social Explorer, 12 December 2016, https://www.socialexplorer.com/4b13bfb0ac/view (based on data from ACS 2015).

The Barrio Suburbanism Map focuses on the first metropolitan region to double its non-white population, explores the shifting economic, social, and spatial contours of suburbs in Greater Los Angeles, and illustrates national trends of Latinx suburbanism in its everyday context. If Los Angeles is a harbinger of the nation’s future, as it has often been, then we can expect that Latinx will increasingly shape the meaning of suburbs in the United States.[18] To paraphrase urban and cultural historian A.K. Sandoval-Strausz, Latinx history is key to rethinking suburban history. In his insightful article, “Latino Landscapes: Postwar Cities and the Transnational Origins of Urban America,” Sandoval-Strausz asserts that alongside quantitative studies of Latinx in the postwar city exists an equivalent need to examine “the culturally specific ways they occupied and produced urban space: their everyday behaviors, residential practices, ownership and patronage of small businesses, and commitment to public presence.”[19] Likewise, in the case of Latinx suburbs, statistics do much to provide a snapshot of recent transformations in suburbia, particularly growth, but they fail to represent the ways Latinx create meaning in the places they occupy. We suggest that multimedia mapping can help inform how we understand these places in light of demographic transformations. Digital mapping, photography, and student research combine here to prompt reflection of how Latinx (sub)urbanism shapes metropolitan space.[20]

Mosaics of Los Angeles Suburbs

We share below six mosaics of Los Angeles inspired by selections from the Barrio Suburbanism Map. Each mosaic is comprised of images and a brief narrative summarizing the map’s content organized by regions that emerged from this research—San Fernando, the Greater Eastside, Gateways, the San Gabriel Valley, Santa Ana, and the Inland Empire. They provide a countermapping to “neighborhoods,” as defined by more mainstream projects that often rely heavily on quantitative data, instead revealing sites linked by place-making and diaspora. Initially, students surveyed demographic data and looked for places where the Latino community had a notable presence. Students, then, explored each area by using a range of qualitative methods, from field visits to analyzing redlining maps to deep reading of archival materials, such as photographs, oral histories, and ephemera. They were also encouraged to reflect on their own experiences within these spaces. Building on that research, map entries were designed with museum length descriptions of 250 words, tweetable links of 140 characters, a bibliography of sources, and, often, original student photography. Although each student focused on an individual suburb or neighborhood, it was through the collective process of mapping that they began to identify spatial forms and cultural practices across metropolitan Los Angeles. When observed online, the digital map underscores shared themes of community formation, immigration, education, art, and public space within the frameworks of (sub)urban studies and planning history. The Barrio Suburbanism Map, itself, contains more entries than the mosaics highlighted here, 80 in total. But it is by no means exhaustive. Rather than seeking to create a definitive survey of LA suburbs, the Barrio Suburbanism Map underscores the ways maps give meaning to place and foregrounds the everyday spatial practices of Latinx communities.

San Fernando

San Fernando serves as a microcosm of shifting land uses and spatial forms in Los Angeles. Situated Northwest of Los Angeles, San Fernando was originally occupied by peoples indigenous to southern California, most notably the Tongva. The city was later colonized by Spanish missionaries and gifted to Californio ranchers during Mexican secularization. San Fernando was one of a few cities in the valley to avoid annexation by Los Angeles in the early 20th century. As demonstrated by Americanist Laura Barraclough, legacies of restrictive housing and exclusionary land-use planning centered on western heritage have maintained privilege in places like the San Fernando Valley when compared to Los Angeles.[21] Map entries follow changes in the town as it transitioned from a Spanish mission holding to Mexican ranch to American farmland to Los Angeles suburb. These transitions culminate in the emergence of local heritage campaigns that foreground San Fernando’s history as a community of “Little Farms Near the City.” In each urban transformation, the presence of Latinxs is steadfast. Yet, the significance of this presence is ever changing as residents react to varying economic, political, and demographic shifts.


Selections highlighting two ways of mapping San Fernando. At left, a historic street map, Shell Oil Company, “Street Map of San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles Northern Section,” David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (1956); at right, a narrative entry, “Barrio Suburbanism: Reshaping Metropolitan Geographies,” 2016, http://uclachicanxstudies.github.io/BarrioSuburbs/#page/about.

Greater Eastside

In Mapping Los Angeles, the neighborhoods of Highland Park and Lincoln Heights are drawn apart from Boyle Heights.[22] In doing so, “East Los Angeles” is prematurely dissected by lines of class and race that are very much contested. By contrast, Victor M. Valle and Rodolfo D. Torres argue for thinking of these places as part of a continuous landscape, that of the Greater Eastside. This social geography is “shaped by the destructive and creative energies unleashed in the competition between older and newer forms of capital accumulation and the ensuing competition between landscapes.”[23] Rather than reestablishing borders, we emphasize the interwoven patterns of Latinx migrations from urban to suburban and back, as well as the histories that underlie these movements. Valle and Torres offer a poignant vision of the “urban Latino core east of the Los Angeles River… as an organic demographic unit from which other Latino satellite communities would grow, cell by suburban cell.”[24] The selections below give a glimpse of changing communities, but also signal the long-term growth and cohesiveness of Latinx neighborhoods.


Selection of photos of the Greater Eastside: “Boyle Heights Appreciation Blog,” n.d., http://boyleheights.tumblr.com/about (left); Virgil Mirano, Photograph, 1999; Los Angeles Public Library, http://jpg1.lapl.org/00092/00092237.jpg (center); and Michelle Rolon, Photograph of Mural by East Los Streetscapes, Lincoln Heights, CA, 15 February 2016 (right).


Sprouting from the famous “shoestring” of Los Angeles, the Gateway suburbs are a collection of over 25 independent municipalities. This vast area, to the Southeast of Los Angeles and stretching out towards Orange County, has a rich, diverse, and sometimes surprising history.[25] One of the most well-known is that of Richland Farms, a working urban farm located in Compton.[26] The story of Richland Farms situates the Gateways and connects it back to the Shoshone tribes, who lived there before the Spanish missionaries arrived in the 1770s. Stories like that of Richland Farms help contextualize the spatial and demographic transformation of the Gateways through place-based history. It also contextualizes how migrants from Mexico and Central America found a home in a predominately African American neighborhood, which actually was almost entirely white decades before.[27] If, on the one hand, Richland Farms points to the region’s past, on the other hand, the 710 Freeway and its geographical surrogate, the Los Angeles River, points to its future. Its freeway’s construction promised to create jobs by providing an easy connection between the urban core and northern suburbs of Los Angeles to its port. However, the freeway also divided communities, making them all but unlivable due to the accompanying high levels of pollution.[28] In the emerging Los Angeles landscape, the Los Angeles River’s redevelopment may provide a transitional moment for some neighborhoods located along this busy corridor. Map contributions include observations concerning the freeway’s impact, empty lots, changing demographics, and new artistic spaces that give voice to the future.


Selection of photographs from Gateways by Alberto Loaiza, Lynwood, CA, 24 February 2016 (left); Enrique Carranza, Maywood, CA, 12 February 2016 (center); and Berenice Meza, Photograph of Mural by “Latino Barrio Roots,” Bell, CA, 21 February 2016 (right).

San Gabriel Valley

Affectionately referred to as the “SGV” and “626” by its residents, the San Gabriel Valley occupies an important cultural crossroads within metropolitan Los Angeles. Described by scholar Wendy Cheng, “The SGV is not only… a notable site of working and middle-class Chicana/o history—but also east of Little Tokyo, east of Chinatown, and an ancestral home of the indigenous Gabrielino/Tongva people.” It is in the context of an intertwined relationship between racial formation and home that Cheng locates an emergent “non-white identity” that is distinct to these multiracial middle-class suburbs.[29] The layered histories of racialization in the San Gabriel Valley are highlighted by its’ mixture of mission architecture, specialty ethnic marketplaces, and multilingual community resources. Looking to suburban space from this interethnic crossroads, one encounters manga graphic novels from Japan translated into Spanish at the local library and a Vietnam War Memorial honoring U.S. veterans in a city with a sizable Vietnamese immigrant community. Suburbs with majority Latinx and Asian American populations, like Rosemead and Baldwin Park with their vivid ethnic landscapes, appear in contrast to majority-Asian elite suburbs, which concede to an “Anglo design aesthetic,” for a variety of class, cultural, and political reasons.[30] Examples of past and present developments, from the first In-N-Out to the Rosemead Trailer Park, underscore the histories of population change, agriculture, and immigration in this LA region.


Selection of photographs of the San Gabriel Valley by Patricia Gonzalez, “Mercado Latino Inc.,” Baldwin Park, CA, 2016 (left) and Kathryn Loutzenheiser, Rosemead, CA, 20 February 2016 (center, right).

Santa Ana

Behind the veneer of effortless suburban homogeneity made popular by the Bravo series Real Housewives of Orange County, sits one of the largest Latinx communities in California.[31] The Logan neighborhood of Santa Ana is among the oldest barrios in the region, with roots dating back to 1886. Santa Ana is now a majority Latinx city, with current estimates near 80 percent of the population. The suburb has become a central node within an alternative Orange County, one in sharp contrast to the O.C.’s central place in histories of conservatism and right-wing organizations comprised of “suburban warriors.”[32] Map entries underscore the ways its built environment shifted alongside municipal demographic changes. Downtown Santa Ana serves as a particularly striking example of place-making, where Logan Park, La Cuatro/Fourth Street, and the East End/Fiesta Village illustrate the varying ways residents of diverse backgrounds use the city. For instance, La Cuatro/Fourth Street features Spanish signage, hosts Mexican national celebrations, and provides a commercial center with restaurants, cafes, and gift shops serving a large immigrant and Latino/a community, at the same time it confronts gentrification. Long-time residents and newcomers, Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, Spanish-speakers and non-Spanish-speakers, have each left their imprint on the heart of Orange County, from the “Dia de La Independencia Fair” to Carlos Aguilar’s mural Among Heroes, which honors Santa Ana veterans.[33] Where residents have created a rich sense of place, the dense interurban transportation networks of the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center remind us of suburbia’s connection to the larger currents of metropolitan Los Angeles.


Selection of photographs of Santa Ana by Kevin Martinez, 8 February 2016 (left, right) and Jorge Quiroz, 15 February 2016 (center).

Inland Empire

Looking to the Inland Empire underscores both past and future directions in the metropolitan areas’ poly-nuclear development and the growth of Latinx suburbia. The Inland Empire was formerly the “Citrus Belt,” a region dotted with semi-rural communities. The City of Ontario exemplifies these early 20th century “agriburbs,” from the tree-lined Euclid Avenue which served as an early showcase of irrigated splendor, to the Sunkist packing house that fueled agriculturalists’ fortunes, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which served as a place of worship for Mexican American residents employed within the regional citrus industry.[34] Where non-white workers were excluded from central neighborhoods through racial covenants and redlining, citrus workers established colonias at the edges of town where Mexican American customs flourished. These neighborhoods were often multiracial and drew on networks and resources established by earlier migrant workers, particularly from China, Korea, Japan, and India.[35] As metropolitan Los Angeles stretched eastward in the postwar era, fields of green were replaced with stucco. About 10 miles east of Ontario is one of California’s newest incorporated municipalities, Jurupa Valley. Like other towns with historic colonias, the Latinx population has grown steadily here. Bilingual markets, the Rubidoux Swap Meet, festivals, parks, and churches have made the site a cultural hub. More so, the growing warehousing industry and its need for labor have made the town a center of international logistics, debates over environmental injustice, and a popular immigrant gateway.


Selection of photographs of the Inland Empire: “Ontario and San Antonio Heights Railroad Company’s Mule Car on Euclid Avenue, Ontario, ca. 1890,” California Historical Society Collection and the University of Southern California, c. 1890 (left); and Jose Cardona, Jurupa Valley, CA, 20 February 2016 (center, right).

Conclusion: A Community of Mapping

Through digital mapping, projects like the Barrio Suburbanism Map facilitate public-oriented research and student engagement in that process. By pairing photographs with student ethnographies, the map seeks to complicate popular perceptions of suburbia. It highlights the dynamic diversity of suburbanization in multiracial Los Angeles, with a focus on Latinx migration and settlement that aims to provoke critical discussion. In particular, it foregrounds how Latinx suburbanites impact the spatial and ideological contours of Greater Los Angeles. Rather than statistically driven mapping, these types of projects offer a more humanistic approach for interpreting space with the potential to train students in historical analysis. This is the first layer of an exponentially buildable platform. Future iterations, for instance, could introduce new layers to the present map that address labor history, housing prices, racial housing covenants, predatory lending, or fair housing activism, as well as artistic, literary, and architectural interventions in suburban spaces. As noted by the editors of Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities, “thick maps are never finished and meanings are never definite… and give rise to forms of counter-mapping, alternative maps, multiple voices, and on-going contestations.” In this way, digital mapping offers a promising opportunity to develop pedagogical and public initiatives that are responsive to the changing conditions of the world we live in.


The authors thank Becky Nicolaides and an anonymous peer reviewer for providing valuable feedback on an earlier draft, as well as Priscilla Leiva for image assistance and student researcher Yazmin Gonzalez for editorial assistance.

[1] Adrienne Crew, “Misquoting Dorothy Parker,” LA Observed, 22 August 2013,  http://www.laobserved.com/intell/2013/08/misquoting_dorothy_parker.php.

[2] Becky Nicolaides, My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,) 2002; Karen Tongson, Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginary (New York: New York University Press, 2011); Jerry Gonzalez, “‘A Place in the Sun’: Mexicans Americans, Race, and the Suburbanization of Los Angeles, 1940-1990,” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (University of Chicago, 2008).

[3] For a selection of sources on the relational forms of racial formation in metropolitan Los Angeles, see Scott Kurashige. The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Laura R. Barraclough, “South Central Farmers and Shadow Hills Homeowners: Land Use Policy and Relational Racialization in Los Angeles,” The Professional Geographer, 61/2 (2009): 164-86; Leland T. Saito, Race and Politics: Asian Americans, Latinos, and Whites in a Los Angeles Suburb (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1998); Wendy Cheng, The Changs Next Door to the Diazes: Remapping Race in Suburban California (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

[4] Defined by historians Becky Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese in The Suburb Reader, “In practical terms, we treat as suburban the sprawling territory beyond the central city limits that lies within commuting distance and social orbit of the older core…. In the larger metro areas, it may include places as far as two hours away as job opportunities have leapfrogged outward and metropolitan commuting sheds have overlapped.” Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, The Suburb Reader, 2d ed. (London: Routledge, 2016), 9.

[5] Photo Friends and the Los Angeles Public Library, “Shades of L.A.: A Search for Visual Ethnic History,” Los Angeles Public Library, 1991, http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

[6] Photo Friends and the Los Angeles Public Library, “Shades of L.A.: A Search for Visual Ethnic History,” Los Angeles Public Library, 1991, http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la. See “Appendix: Inspirational Mapping Projects” for examples of other exciting projects bridging academic and public scholarship.

[7] Audrey Singer, Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008).

[8] For a selection of classic and contemporary scholarship on mapping, see Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin, and Chris Perkins, eds., The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation (Wiley Blackwell, 2011). On decolonizing mapping, see Sherene Razack, Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002). See also ch. 5 in Elaine Lewinnek, The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[9] Eric Jaffe, “So Are People Moving Back to the City or Not?” The Atlantic, 14 November 2011, http://www.citylab.com/design/2011/11/so-are-people-moving-back-city-or-not/487/; Emily Badger, “Who’s Really Moving Back into American Cities,” The Washington Post, 1 April 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/01/the-surprisingly-narrow-reality-of-americas-urban-revival/?utm_term=.986a4afc7537; Ben Casselman, “Think Millennials Prefer The City? Think Again,” Five Thirty Eight, 20 March 2015, http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/think-millennials-prefer-the-city-think-again/; Morris Z. Davis, “Why Millennials Are About to Leave Cities in Droves,” Fortune, 28 March 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/03/28/millennials-leaving-cities/.

[10] Denis Woods, Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010), 66.

[11] LA Times Data Desk, “Mapping L.A.” Los Angeles Times, n.d. http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/.

[12] “Mapping L.A.: The Process,” Los Angeles Times, n.d., http://maps.latimes.com/about/#the-process; “Mapping L.A. Version 1,” Los Angeles Times, n.d., http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/version-one/; “Los Angeles Times Media Kit,” Los Angeles Times, n.d., http://mediakit.latimes.com/audience.

[13] “Mapping L.A.: Crime L.A.” The Los Angeles Times, n.d., http://maps.latimes.com/crime/.

[14] Brenda Parker, “Constructing Community through Maps? Power and Praxis in Community Mapping,” The Professional Geographer 58 (2006): 470–84.

[15] Roberto Suro and Audrey Singer, “Latino Growth in Metropolitan America: Changing Patterns, New Locations,” (Washington, D.C.: The Brooking Institution, 2002).

[16] Spanish Origin or Descent, 1970,” Satellite, Social Explorer, 12 December 2016, http://www.socialexplorer.com/4b13bfb0ac/view (based on data from Census 1970); “Total Population: Hispanic or Latino.” Satellite. Social Explorer, 12 December 2016, http://www.socialexplorer.com/4b13bfb0ac/view (based on data from ACS 2015).

[17] Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), esp. ch. 7; Jody Agius Vallejo, Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012); Jerry Gonzalez, “‘A Place in the Sun’: Mexicans Americans, Race, and the Suburbanization of Los Angeles, 1940-1990,” unpublished Ph.D. diss. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2008); Audrey Singer, Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2008).

[18] See Raúl Homero Villa and George J. Sánchez, eds., Los Angeles and the Future of Urban Cultures: A Special Issue of American Quarterly (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2005).

[19] A.K. Sandoval-Strausz, “Latino Landscapes: Postwar Cities and the Transnational Origins of a New Urban America,” Journal of American History101 (2014): 808.

[20] This project utilizes GitHub as an academic publishing web platform and builds on frameworks developed by UCLA scholar Dawn Childress and programmer Nathan Day. For more on the design and attribution of the map, visit “Barrio Suburbanism: Reshaping Metropolitan Geographies,” 2016, http://uclachicanxstudies.github.io/BarrioSuburbs/#page/about.

[21] Laura Barraclough, Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011).

[22] “Mapping LA: Neighborhoods” Los Angeles Times, n.d. http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/.

[23] Victor M. Valle and Rodolfo D. Torres, Latino Metropolis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 22.

[24] Ibid., 23.

[25] Becky Nicolaides, My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

[26] Zach Behrans, “A Brief Timeline of Richmond Farms in Compton,” KCET, 6 January 2011, https://www.kcet.org/socal-focus/a-brief-timeline-of-richland-farms-in-compton.

[27] Once even called home by George H.W. and George W. Bush in 1949 and 1950; see Nathan Masters, “George H.W. and George W. Bush Once Lived in Compton,” GIZMODO, 14 May 2014, http://gizmodo.com/when-george-bush-lived-in-compton-1576116422.

[28] Gilbert Estrada, “The 710 Long Beach Freeway: A history of America’s Most Important Freeway,” KCET, https://www.kcet.org/shows/departures/the-710-long-beach-freeway-a-history-of-americas-most-important-freeway

[29] Wendy Cheng, “A Brief History (and Geography) of the San Gabriel Valley,” Departures Columns, KCET, 4 August 2014, https://www.kcet.org/departures-columns/a-brief-history-and-geography-of-the-san-gabriel-valley. For more on histories of regional racialization, especially as pertaining to the San Gabriel Valley, see Wendy Cheng, The Changs Next Door to the Diazes: Remapping Race in Suburban California (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

[30] Becky M. Nicolaides and James Zarsadiaz, “Design Assimilation in Suburbia: Asian Americans, Built Landscapes, and Suburban Advantage in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley since 1970,” Journal of Urban History 43 (2017): 332-71.

[31] Scott Dunlop, “Real Housewives of Orange County,” Bravo Networks, 2006–2016.

[32] Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

[33] Carlos Aguilar, Among Heroes, Mural, 24-by-27-ft., 2012.

[34] For more on agriburbs, see Paul J.P. Sandul, California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State (Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, 2015).

[35] Matt Garcia, A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970. Chapel Hill and London (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).


Appendix: Inspirational Mapping Resources

We have drawn inspiration from a myriad of mapping projects across the Los Angeles region. Below is a partially crowd sourced selection of interpretive projects and archival map resources for feeding your inner-cartographer.

Interpretive Projects

Archival Resources

Genevieve Carpio is an Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California and previously held the Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale University. Her work engages relational ethnic studies, 20th century U.S. history, and critical geography, particularly as it relates to notions of place and mobility.

Andy Rutkowski is the Geospatial Resources Librarian at UCLA Library. He is interested in how GIS applications and methods can be applied to traditional library collections and archives in order to improve discoverability of collections as well as provide richer context and meaning to materials. He is also interested in the role that GIS and mapping can help play in community building and providing spaces for discussion, dialogue, and engagement around a variety of topics and issues.

Copyright: © 2017 The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/