Sheriffs Tally Over 90 Reports of New Years Gunfire; Number Down In L.A. City

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

More than 90 incidents of celebratory New Year gunfire were reported in areas patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, resulting in a minor injury and slight damage to a car, authorities said Wednesday.

A 74-year-old woman was sitting in her den in the 15000 block of Clymar Avenue in the Gardena area when she heard glass breaking at 12:03 a.m. Tuesday and a bullet fragment struck her foot, said Lt. Jimmy Rios of the sheriff’s Compton Station. The fragment did not break the skin, and the woman declined treatment, he said.

From 8 p.m. Monday until 4 a.m. Tuesday, 93 incidents of possible firearms discharges were reported in areas patrolled by the sheriff’s department, which provides police services in 130 unincorporated communities and 42 of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities, said Captain Mike Parker of the sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.

Anyone with information about the shootings is urged to contact detectives at the Compton Station at (310) 605-6500. To remain anonymous, tipsters cans call LA CrimeStoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or access the site at http://lacrimestoppers.org.

In the city of Los Angeles, there appears to have been a decline in celebratory gunfire compared to previous years.

Still, it sounded like “a war zone” outside the building at the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Station in South Los Angeles, said Officer Roger Aguirre. Officers caught two of the shooters, he said.

There were no arrests in the neighboring area patrolled by the LAPD’s Southeast Station, said Sgt. James Linder.

“There were not as many gunshots as years past, but ironically we found a bullet in the station parking lot as a reminder that they’re still around,” Linder said.

The Northeast Station, including Echo Park, Griffith Park and Mount Washington, also reported no arrests, and Sgt. Teresa Anderson said the celebratory gunfire was “not as bad as in the past.”

A ‘Rosy’ New Year Tradition

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

La Canada Flintridge whimsical entry features an ambitious and creative brontosaurus eager to see the world. The pre-historic creature is sporting roller skates and strapped on wings. This DINO is going to soar! (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

A wedding on top of a float, a little boy reunited with his father returning from military service, and a bat-winged Stealth Bomber flyby drew large cheers as the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade rolled down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena Tuesday.

Famed chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall served as grand marshal.

Themed “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” the annual procession included 42 floral floats, 23 marching bands and 21 equestrian units.

It was highlighted by a young couple pronounced “husband and wife” in front of the grandstands and on national television.

That event may have competed for the most tears shed with the little boy, who was surprised as his father, wearing combat fatigues, returned from his tour of duty.

The Dole fruit company’s “Dreaming of Paradise” float, built by Phoenix Floats, took the Sweepstakes Award. It was the 20th year that company had built the sweepstakes winner, a spokesman said.

“Dr. John Goodall’s life story is a testament to the scene of adventure and openness that the theme Oh the Places You’ll Go, suggests”, said Sally Bixby, President of the Tournament of Roses Association, in announcing the world renown primatologist and conservationist as the Grand Marshall for the 124th Rose Parade. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

The Grand Marshal’s Award went to HGTV for “All Paths Lead Home.” The Governor’s Award went to the City of Glendale for “Living The Good Life,” the Director’s Award went to the City of San Gabriel Centennial for “Celebrating Our Journey,” and Burbank took the Fantasy Award for its “Deep Sea Adventures.”

The parade passed in front of between 700,000 and one million spectators, many of whom camped on the street overnight to secure prime viewing positions for one of the world’s most famous parades.

According to the Tournament of Roses Association, the first parade was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club — former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showcase the Southland’s mild winter weather.

The first procession included horse-drawn carriages decorated with brightly colored flowers, followed by foot races and jousts in the area town square. In subsequent years, the parade festivities included rodeo-type events and even ostrich races.

The parade began near Orange Grove Boulevard and Ellis Street, then moved east along Colorado Boulevard and north on Sierra Madre Boulevard.

Tournament of Roses President Sally Bixby said the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” was chosen with Goodall in mind as grand marshal.

“The theme can be interpreted as a celebration of accomplishment, discovery and travel of course, but equally valid is its implicit call to action,” Bixby said. “We think Dr. Goodall’s life story is a testament to the sense of adventure and openness to possibility that this phrase suggests. As a young woman, she defied convention to follow her dreams, and she has committed herself to a life of global citizenship, inspiring children and adults alike along the way.”

The 78-year-old Goodall, a lifelong advocate for the protection of endangered species, is best known for immersing herself into the habitat of chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, documenting the personalities of individual chimpanzees and their human-like characteristics.

She gained fame for the close relationship she formed with the chimps she was studying, even finding herself accepted as a member of a particular group of the animals for nearly two years.

In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit organization that “empowers people to make a difference for all living things.”

In 1991, she worked with a group of students in Tanzania to form Roots & Shoots, which is the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program.

“New Year’s Day symbolizes the opportunity to work toward new goals, experience new beginnings and make a difference,” Goodall said. “My dream for this New Year’s Day is for everyone to think of the places we can all go if we work together to make our world a better place.

“Every journey starts with a step and I am pleased to see the Tournament of Roses continue to take steps toward not only celebrating beauty and imagination, but also a cleaner environment,” she said.

Vanessa Natalie Manjarrez, a 17-year-old student at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, presided over the festivities as the 2013 Rose Queen.

She and the members of her Royal Court, all 17 years old, were chosen from more than 900 applicants.

Across the Region, Officials Prioritize Economy and Beautification Projects for 2013

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

People tend to make resolutions and promises for the New Year that focus on improving their appearance and their financial situations. When EGP asked local city officials and district representatives about their city or district resolutions for the year 2013, many of them had similar answers that included beautification and ways to improve the economy.

EGP asked city officials and district representatives what would be one thing that they would like to accomplish in 2013 before the end of the fiscal year in July, as well as what the biggest challenge their city or district faces this year.

Lilia R. Leon is the Mayor of the City of Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For the City of Commerce, 2013 will be about beautifying the city in hopes of improving the quality of life for residents and business owners.

“From streets and roads, to city facilities where children and adults receive services, Commerce is moving forward on numerous projects this year,” Mayor Lilia R. Leon told EGP.

Similarly, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar (CD-14) told EGP that he wants to continue his efforts to create more open and green spaces in the 14th district, which includes communities like Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and Highland Park.

“Children need places to play in an urban environment,” Huizar told EGP. “Families need a place to relax and enjoy nature.”

Educating children in the area is important to newly installed Assemblyman Ed Chau, who represents the 49th District that covers parts of Monterey Park and Montebello.  Chaus also served many years on the Montebello Unified School District school board.

“One of my priorities is improving our education system by ensuring that children in our district and throughout the state have access to a quality education,” said Chau.

But like most city officials or representatives, Chau says the main obstacle to achieving his goal ensuring his district gets the funds needed to fulfill his commitment to education.

Assemblymember Ed Chau represents the 49th District. (Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Ed Chau)

“Due to the cuts made to education programs in recent years, and the prospect of schools experiencing an increase in funding during the coming years,”

Teresa Real Sebastian is the Vice Mayor of the City of Monterey Park. (Photo courtesy of Monterey Park)

Chau told EGP, “I will work with my colleagues in considering various options when deciding how to allocate some of this funding.”

In hopes of improving the economy for Monterey Park in 2013, Vice Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian says one of her priorities is to make sure that construction on the Market Place project- a shopping center to be built next to the 60 freeway – gets underway.

“Monterey Park supports, needs and deserves this project,” Real Sebastian told EGP. “We weathered the brunt of the recession and are now more focused than ever to create new opportunities for added value developments and jobs.”

While creating more green space is a priority for Huizar, the L.A. councilman told EGP the most important issue affecting the quality of life for his constituents is the economy, and ensuring that everyone who wants a job, has a job.

“To do that, we have to be receptive and responsive to business and help them navigate the often-times heavy City bureaucracy that they encounter,” he said.

Likewise, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti (CD-13), who is also running to become L.A.’s next mayor, says he hopes to help improve the economy and continue to create jobs in the city by ensuring the aviation program at Van Nuys Airport is not closed.

L.A Councilmember Eric Garcetti represents District 13. (Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti)

He plans to introduce a motion at Friday’s city council meeting requesting that Los Angeles World Airports engage immediately with LAUSD to ensure continued operation of the North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Center.

“Saving this program will directly connect Angelenos with careers and help stop aerospace companies from seeking trained workers in other cities,” Garcetti told EGP. “A trained aviation workforce in Los Angeles is critical to the competitiveness of our airports, our aerospace industry, our trade sector and our overall economy.”

Aside from beautification and bringing jobs to their communities, Huizar and Garcetti said they want make sure that their constituent’s concerns are addressed in a timely manner.

“In 2013, I want to continue my office’s goal of engaging our constituents who reach out to us with an issue, whether it’s graffiti, a bulky item that needs to be picked up or a pothole that needs filling,” said Huizar.

Garcetti told EGP that one of the issues of timeliness he wants to address is fire department response times.

L.A Councilmember Jose Huizar represents District 14. (Photo courtesy of Jose Huizar)

“The focus for 2013 must be on making sure City Hall better helps people and solves their problems, including faster fire department response times, fixing more potholes and quickly responding to complaints in every neighborhood,” said Garcetti.

While across the board city officials look forward to moving ahead with their projects, Monterey Park’s Vice Mayor, Real Sebastian, pointed out that uncertain state legislative mandates could lead to fiscal setbacks in the city’s plans. On the other hand, Commerce’s mayor told EGP that the passage of Measure AA has made the city’s goals possible by providing resources for such initiatives.

Like most people who reflected on the previous year and took stock of what they had learned, Leon said the City of Commerce plans to use that knowledge to improve the city’s future.

“The lessons we learned from the recession have taught us that we need to remain fiscally sustainable in the short term to protect programs and services,” Leon told EGP. “It has also informed our long term view that we need to focus on environmental sustainability and economic development to improve quality of life for our constituents in the coming decades.”

EGP Staff Writer Gloria Angelina Castillo also contributed to this story.


Residents Urged to Recycle Christmas Trees

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County residents are being urged to recycle their live Christmas trees in order to boost recycling and reduce fire hazards.

In some parts of the county, including in several local cities, special drop-off sites have been set up for residents wanting to recycle their live trees. In other areas, curbside recycling is being offered for a limited time.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conferece last week at the Cypress Park fire station to inform the public about the various locations that residents can recycle their christmas trees. (Photo courtesy of the City of Los Angeles)

In addition to being better for the environment, officials cautioned that dried out trees can pose a fire hazard.

At a press conference held just before the Christmas holiday at a fire station in Cypress Park, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Fire Chief Brian Cummings demonstrated how to recycle the trees properly, and called on city residents to take advantage of the city’s annual tree recycling program.

“This holiday season every Angeleno can give a gift to Mother Nature by recycling our Christmas trees,” Villaraigosa said. “If every Angeleno pitches in and recycles their Christmas trees, together we can increase recycling so significantly that we will lead the nation in waste diversion and reduce the number of Christmas tree-related fires in the City.”

Firefighters respond annually to more than 200 Christmas tree-related fires that cause, on average, 10 deaths and more than $10 million in property damage, according to the mayor’s office.

“Dried-out Christmas trees create a significant fire hazard,” Cummings said. “That’s why, for the safety of everyone in your household, it’s important to ensure that Christmas trees are … removed from the home soon after the holidays.”

Both city and county officials say all decorations and the stand should be removed from the tree

City of Los Angeles

Los Angeles city residents can recycle trees in three ways: by cutting them into pieces and placing them into the green yard-waste bins, by leaving the trees intact on the curb next to the green bins on collection days and by dropping the trees at one of 21 drop-off sites on Sunday, Jan. 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including these two local spots:

At Griffith Park, Junction of Golden State (5) & Ventura (134) Freeways-LA Zoo parking lot, or FIRE STATION #44 in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Cypress Park, located at 1410 Cypress Ave., LA 90065. For more information call  (213) 485-6244.

Los Angeles County-Unincorporated Areas

Through Jan. 19, residents in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County can recycle their trees by leaving them curbside on regular trash collection days. Trees over six feet should be cut in half.  The trees collected will be recycled and used as compost, mulch, or ground cover, which reduces the production of landfill waste and preserves natural resources, according to the county.

Those who miss their curbside recycling dates should cut their trees into smaller pieces and place them in a green waste container. For more information on the county’s Christmas Tree Disposal Program, go to www.CleanLA.comor call 1(888) CLEANLA for guidelines on Christmas tree removal in your community.

Bell Gardens

Through Jan. 8, residents can dispose of their Christmas tree by leaving it curbside on their regular trash collection day. Starting Jan. 9, and continuing for approximately two-weeks, residents can dispose of their tree by taking it to one of two city locations between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.: Ford Park, located at 8000 Park Lane, or to the Public Works Yard, 8327 S. Garfield Ave. For more information, call (562) 806-7770. No flocked trees will be accepted.

City of Commerce

Calmet will pick up Christmas Trees on regular waste collection days through Jan. 11 for recycling. Trees taller than four feet must be cut in half. Flocked trees will be accepted. For more information, call CalMet Services at (800) 990-6387.

Montebello

Through the end of January, residents can dispose of their Christmas in the large trash bin that will be located in the City Hall East parking lot.

Athens Disposal will also be picking up Christmas trees for recycling on regular waste collection days through the second week of January. Residents are asked to remove ornaments and place the tree next to their trash bins. Trees over six feet must be cut in half. If residents miss the dates for recycling they may cut up the tree and place it in their yard waste containers.

For more information, call Montebello’s Parks and Recreation at (323) 887-4540.

Monterey Park

Holiday trees will be collected and recycled for the first two weeks after Christmas on your regular trash pickup day: Cut tree in half if it is over six feet tall and place tree on the curb on your normal trash collection day next to your automated containers.

If you live in a multi-family unit with dumpster collection, place your tree at the curb (or alley, if applicable) on the same trash day as the single-family homes in your immediate neighborhood.  If you are unsure of whether your street has alley collection, call Athens Services waste collection at 888-336-6100.

Hollenbeck Detectives Ask for Public’s Help to Locate ShopLifter

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Police Department detectives from the Hollenbeck Division yesterday asked for the public’s help in gathering information that would lead to the arrest of a man who stole clothing from a local store.

A surveillance photo of the suspect was released on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of LAPD)

The crime happened at about 5:15pm on Dec. 17, when the man entered the clothing store located on the 1200 block of South Lorena Street. The suspect grabbed several items of clothing from a display rack and ran out of the front door, according to the LAPD.

He then entered a getaway vehicle, described as a tan 1990’s Honda 4-door, and left the area.

He is described only as a male Hispanic who was wearing a green work uniform.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspect is asked to call Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Detectives, Detective Adams at (323) 342- 8986. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877- 527-3247).

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I¬M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

Sometimes It’s the Small Changes That Make the Biggest Difference

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The beginning of a New Year provides for great enthusiasm for us to do better in the year ahead, but too often we make unrealistic demands on ourselves that just set us up for failure.

And so it is with commu-nities, and sadly our country. It seems they are still in a state of crisis, not only fiscally, but physically as well.

We need to do better when it comes to our individual health and that of our families to help stem the crisis of diabetes, obesity, heart and vascular diseases.

Improving the health of our children can start with something as simple as just cutting one sugary drink per day. We believe, and many health experts agree, that the results of that single change can lead to dramatic improvements in their health over time. It’s about the commitment to change for our own good.

By adding one serving of fruits and vegetables, consuming one less fatty or sugary snack, we could probably help a child and/or an adult improve their health. Turning off the TV and video games for just one hour a day might just inspire our young people to go outside and get some exercise. And who knows, maybe the adults in their life will be inspired to do it with them.

These are just a few of examples of the countless small changes that can be made which we are sure can help improve our country’s overall health.

And in case you need a financial incentive, improving people’s health is the best way to reduce the money we individually spend each year on healthcare, and to reduce the cost of keeping the US’s very expensive health systems running.

The Dropped Ball

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Millions of Americans watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. The glitzy one in Times Square symbolized joy and hope for the New Year. Just a few hundred miles to the south, Congress dropped another ball — one that no doubt sent champagne glasses clinking among the richest 1 percent. But the rest of us shouldn’t celebrate.

While the White House and much of the media spun the hurried late-night move as a victory for the middle class, it was a win paid for with hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax cuts for America’s wealthiest families.

At midnight on December 31, all of the Bush era tax cuts expired. So when the Senate voted a couple of hours after midnight, they technically voted on new tax cuts for everybody. The bill that the Senate passed raises $1 trillion less than President Barack Obama’s original budget proposal. And much of it flowed directly into the pockets of America’s richest 1 percent.

Obama not only failed in his promise to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of taxpayers, he couldn’t even raise taxes on all of the richest 1 percent. Only those with individual incomes above $400,000 ($450,000 for couples) will face higher tax rates. The threshold for the top 1 percent starts at $369,691. The tax cuts for the richest Americans are permanent, while the child tax credit, college tax credit, and earned income tax credits that benefit Americans of more modest means expire once again in five years.

President Obama’s original budget proposal would have increased the annual tax bills of the richest 1 percent by nearly $10,000; the bill that Congress just enacted instead cuts the income taxes of the average top 1 percent family by $17,840, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

The very rich got an even greater belated Christmas gift: the budget deal raised the estate tax exemption to $10 million per couple. That level’s so high that only the richest 0.3 percent will pay it — just 3 of every 1,000 estates or about 7,000 estates each year. When the clock struck midnight on January 1, the estate tax rate was 55 percent. Two hours later, when the Senate acted, it dropped to just 40 percent.

Taking into account the new health care tax on unearned income, the wealthiest 1 percent also saw taxes on their dividends nearly halved from what would have become a 43 percent rate to 24 percent. With this fiscal deal, Congress continues to honor the perverse American tradition of rewarding income from wealth more than income from work.

And lest corporations feel left out of the New Year’s Eve party for the rich — Congress snuck 31 corporate tax breaks into the bill, including two pernicious provisions called the Active Financing Exception and the Controlled Foreign Corporation Look-Through, which helps companies like General Electric and Apple avoid billions of dollars in U.S. corporate income taxes.

While eight senators opposed the deal, only one — Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa — did so because he felt it threatened America’s middle class.

“Every dollar that wealthy taxpayers do not pay under this deal, we will eventually ask Americans of modest means to forgo in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits,” Harkin explained. “It is shortsighted to look at these issues in isolation from one another, especially when congressional Republicans have been crystal clear that they intend to seek spending cuts to programs like Social Security just two months from now, using the debt limit as leverage.”

Because the deal the White House brokered with Congress does little to reduce the debt, deficit hawks will soon be back at it, seeking to cut more from Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and other programs that benefit millions of families.

If that happens, middle class and low-income Americans will have less money to spend, which will mean fewer customers for Main Street businesses, and ultimately fewer jobs for all.

Scott Klinger is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed via OtherWords.org


Maybe the Mayans Were Right

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Lots of  ”end of the world” hype preceded December 21st, 2012, the end of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar. In China, the impending date even occasioned mass arrests of supposed “doomsday cult” members — probably run-of-the-mill religious or political dissidents, of course, but that the regime would pick such a tie-in as the latest justification for its usual activities indicates that the Mayan legend gained considerable depth of social and media penetration.

Some of the less bombastic analyses of the “Long Count” phenomenon noted that it didn’t necessarily mean the end of the world, but merely the end of a long historical cycle, to be followed by a new paradigm. Now, I don’t buy into the Mayan mythology for any purposes, but it occurs to me that 2012 may indeed have been a turning point of sorts.

This year, for the first time in my own life and  in a nearly century or so far as I know, the term “anarchist” started popping up as more than an aside in conventional media narratives. It’s been gaining ground for the last decade or so with e.g. references to Black Bloc activists at WTO demonstrations and such, but this year it began to move toward center stage.

As the Greek state found itself besieged and nearing complete disintegration under the burden of its politicians’ debts, the media used anarchists as their first bete noire, highlighting their involvement in that country’s counter-”austerity” protests.

In April, one of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s security operations (you know, the ones where they incessantly hector a few unstable people to commit violent acts, then swoop in to save the day when they finally get a bite) netted four “anarchists” for agreeing to blow up a bridge in Ohio. Nothing unusual about the operation per se — the FBI is by far the most prolific group of terrorist plotters in the world — but we must keep in mind that the “perpetrators” aren’t randomly picked. The FBI chose “anarchists” because they wanted to highlight (read: manufacture) a particular threat.

The trend continued all year long, culminating in December when the Southern Poverty Law Center reached into its magical “scare the bejabbers out of liberals so they pull out their checkbooks” hat and pulled out … drum roll, please … “anarcho-capitalists.”

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “anarcho-capitalists” are the slightly addled step-siblings of market anarchists (slightly addled because they conflate “capitalism” with free markets, incorrectly positioning themselves on the “right” — that is, the wrong — end of the left-right political spectrum).

The SPLC attempts, with some success (mostly due to a hare-brained “right populist” electoral strategy launched back in the late 1980s and early 1990s by “anarcho-capitalists” Murray N. Rothbard and Lew Rockwell, in collusion with conservative politician Ron Paul), to link “anarcho-capitalists” with the right-wing “Patriot” movement.

What’s interesting about the SPLC’s scare play is not that the connection, however tenuous, exists. It’s that SPLC thinks it can effectually wave the anarchist black flag as a bloody fundraising shirt.

To grab a military intelligence term, this is what’s known as an “Enemy Activity Indicator.” SPLC’s selection of fundraising hobgoblins usually runs in tandem with — sometimes a little ahead or a little behind, but in the same general areas as — the state’s own security theater playbill. And they prefer to run a little ahead so that they can claim “canary in the coal mine” status when the next Big Scare cranks up.

It’s hard to say whether 2012 was an indicator of actually surging anarchism, or of the state’s intent to use anarchism as the excuse for its next “big push” toward totalitarianism. If I had to guess, I’d say the answer is a little big of both … and that these phenomena tend to fuel each other.

At 365 years of age, the Westphalian nation-state is fraying around the edges and brittle at its core. Every day, it becomes more clear that the state as we know it cannot successfully compete with the non-state networks now operating in every political and economic sector worldwide. The stateless society isn’t just looking more and more theoretically viable, it is openly emerging as the paradigm of the next long historical cycle.

Stand by for interesting times.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

Spanish Literacy Obstacle for Some Seeking “Deferred Action”

January 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Arisbeth Meza came to Phoenix from Mexico City, following the path of her older sister. She was 13 and has been working ever since cleaning the homes of the wealthy. In Mexico, she studied until the 7th grade. She never got a chance to go to school in the United States, because she had to work to help support her family.

Now 21, Meza’s low literacy skills in both English and Spanish stand in her way to benefiting from a federal program that offers her a reprieve from deportation.

To qualify for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, applicants need to have been younger than age 16 when they entered the United States illegally. They must also be either a high school graduate, have a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or be enrolled in high school. They cannot have certain criminal convictions.

Those who qualify for DACA receive a two-year deferral from being deported and can continue their work or schooling.

Came to Help Parents

For Meza, obtaining her GED certificate –even in her Spanish native tongue–is a huge challenge. She understands a little bit of English, but that is not enough for the test. When it comes to Spanish, it is difficult for her to write or make sense of punctuation. Comas and parenthesis, dashes and semicolons confuse her when she reads.

“I wanted to study when I first arrived, because I saw others doing it. But I came here hoping I could help my mom and dad financially,” she said in Spanish.

Meza’s situation is not unique. Advocates for “Dreamers” like her – undocumented youth who came to the country as children and who are advocating for a legal pathway to citizenship – are aware of their educational challenges.

“These are dramatic situations because these kids were not enrolled at school, perhaps out of fear that they would be singled out as undocumented immigrants,” said Carmen Cornejo, an activist from CADENA, an organization that advocates for legalization allowing Dreamers a path to citizenship. “This can also be considered a denial of their rights as children to have an education. In some instances, their family circumstances might have led them to have to work.”

Cornejo said there are opportunities for Arisbeth. Immigration authorities still consider those enrolled in GED classes for the temporary deferred action, she added.

“These kids would have a lot of problems in the long run, if they don’t enroll in a program to try to get the GED,” said Cornejo. Part of the issue is that if Congress gives support for the legalization of youth through legislation similar to the Dream Act, the threshold of education required might be much higher, she explained.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, in Washington, D.C., roughly 1.76 million youth are eligible for DACA nationally, and about 500,000 of those are younger than age 15. MPI estimates that 350,000 of all who qualify for the benefit have neither a high school diploma, nor are enrolled in school. In Arizona, an estimated 80,000 youth could benefit from DACA. There’s no data on how many of them are currently in high school or have received a diploma.

A Chance to Catch Up

In Arizona, Dreamers have faced a number of hurdles to get ahead in their education. A state law – Proposition 300 – approved by voters in 2006, bars state-funded schools from offering free GED classes to undocumented immigrants, making the path to DACA eligibility difficult for those who may have aged out of the high school system, but still wish to become eligible for the new federal program.

Proposition 300, however, doesn’t remove their right to take the GED exam altogether. Rather, advocates say, it merely bars them from taking GED classes at institutions that receive state funds.

In response, local nonprofits serving Latinos are jumping in to offer GED preparation classes for a fee. The groups are responding to a spike in demand for such services.

In October, the nonprofit Friendly House started offering GED preparation classes focused on helping DACA applicants at a fee of $300 for 10 weeks. The classes are offered in English and Spanish, and test-takers have the option of taking the GED in either language.

“We were very honest with them and told them, “This is where you’re at and this is what you need to do,” said Luis Enriquez, director of adult education and workforce development at Friendly House. “We’re not miracle workers; we’ll give you the tools. We’ll give you a good teacher. It depends on the effort you put in it.”

The program has enrolled about 100 students so far. Assessment tests showed that nearly two-thirds of them had a 6th or 7th grade literacy level in both English and Spanish.

He said it would be extremely difficult for these students to make up for six years worth of education in 10 weeks, but the program can provide clients with extra support and a plan to prepare for the GED exam.

“The problem with Spanish, is that some people speak it, but the Spanish they’re getting in the test, is academic Spanish, [with a lot] of the vocabulary they’ve never seen in social studies,” he said. “They don’t use it in everyday life,” he added.

The students that Enriquez has met are a lot like Meza. They never enrolled in school, because they had to support their family or have children of their own they have to support financially.

DACA May Offer Protection

Some of them, despite their disadvantages, were able to pass the test and are already filing for DACA, Enriquez noted. The educational program offers another advantage, he said. Immigration authorities may consider enrollment in courses to earn a GED in the DACA process.

Meza wants to get her DACA application in because she feels it will protect her, especially now that she’s pregnant and about to have her second child.

In Arizona, laws severely restricting immigrants, such as SB 1070, make it mandatory for authorities to question a person’s immigration status and turn the individual over to immigration authorities.

Financial pressures could once again set her back.

Besides the expense of a second child, Arisbeth is now sending money to her grandmother to buy medicine. So, it may take time for Meza to save up enough for GED classes and application fees to apply for the federal program.

MUSD Chooses Congressional Aid to Fill Vacant School Board Seat

January 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

A member of U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano’s (CA-38) staff has been sworn in to serve out the time remaining on a seat left vacant on Montebello Unified School District school board when Ed Chau resigned following his election to the State Assembly.

Benjamin Cardenas, pictured right, was sworn in as a provisional councilmember for the Montebello Unified School District on December 20 at the school board meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Benjamin Cardenas was officially sworn in by Rep. Napolitano late last month following a special Saturday MUSD board meeting where school board members unanimously selected Cardenas to fill out Chau’s term. Cardenas currently serves as Napolitano’s district director.

Cardenas was provisionally appointed to fill the seat until the next scheduled board elections, which will take place in November.

Cardenas was sworn in for a second time during the last district board meeting in 2012, attended by a number of local city officials and district representatives who wanted to show their support.

After being sworn in by board member Gerri Guzman, Cardenas thanked the crowd and his family for attending the ceremony.

“I’m ready to start working,” he told the crowd. “All I pledge is that I will work hard.”

Board President Hector Chacon said in a press release announcing the newest board member that he believes Cardenas will be a strong advocate for students, parents and teachers.

“I am confident that he will complement the Board of Education by bringing forward innovative ideas from his career as a public servant,” said Chacon.

Cardenas also currently serves on the Eastmont Community Center Board of Directors. He received his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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