May 31, 2012 Issue

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SPECIAL REPORT: Know Your Rights to Better Advocate for Your Autistic Child

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When Glassell Park resident Patricia Rasconi’s son was diagnosed with Autism, she wondered if it was something that would go away.

She grappled with the diagnosis, but soon learned she would have to advocate for her son if she wanted him to receive the services to help him speak.

Accessing services is not always easy, but Rasconi is making her best effort to help her son, something too many Spanish-speaking parents delay for years.

Stories like Rasconi’s are not unusual. In fact, they are on the rise.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently increased its estimate of the number of children with Autism to one in 88, up from the estimate of one in 150 just a few years ago. However, the CDC’s latest prevalence study does not include any recent data from California, where the majority of new births are to Latinos, many of whom do not speak English.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Capacitase para Mejor Abogar para su Hijo Diagnosticado con Autismo

Despite the booming Latino population, culturally sensitive information in Spanish on Autism is still hard to come by. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

And while there are state and federal laws on the books that mandate services for people with disabilities, like Autism, the reality is parents have to fight for services. If you only speak Spanish, have little formal education or have little access to the Internet, finding culturally relevant information in Spanish that explains the disorder, not to mention your rights, is going to be a challenge.

California’s Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Lanterman Act), mandates that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families receive supportive services to enable the disabled individual “to make decisions and choices about how, and with whom, they want to live…; achieve the highest self-sufficiency possible; and lead productive, independent and satisfying lives as part of the communities in which they live,” according to the East Los Angeles Regional Center, ELARC, website. The Act also established the creation of a system of regionally based centers, like ELARC, to provide those services.

The Autism Spectrum Disorder, which varies from child to child in severity, causes significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Most experts agree that in less severe cases, some of those issues can be alleviated with early intervention.

Yet, while the media and many health care professionals are calling Autism an epidemic, no new federal government funding has been allocated to address the growing national issue.

What Are Your Rights?
—The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Lanterman Act) passed in 1969 outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals with developmental disabilities. It underscores that developmentally disabled individuals have the same legal rights and responsibilities as all other people.
It also establishes that persons with developmental disabilities or at risk of developing a developmental disability are entitled to supportive services.
Rights listed under the Lanterman Act aim to provide the individual with services and supports to live the most independent and productive life possible, according to the California Dept. of Developmental Services’ Consumer’s Guide to the Lanterman Act, available online in both English and Spanish.
Regional centers must provide information to their clients in a way they can understand, whether through sign language or communication tools, or a facilitator or interpreter.
Developmentally disabled individuals have the right to choose where and whom to live with, go to school, work, how to belong to a community, have relationships and to decide what what services and supports they want and need.
They also have the right to: dignity and humane care; privacy; appropriate program of public education; prompt medical care and treatment; religious freedom and practice; social interaction and participation in community activities; physical exercise and recreation; to be free from harm and hazardous procedures, and to receive services and support in the least restrictive environment.

—Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that students with disabilities have the right to a free, appropriate public education. Special education must be provided in the least restrictive environment, to the extent appropriate with non-disabled peers.

—The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public school systems to have appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) for each disabled student and mandates some procedures for IEPs, such as it must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and updated every year. Parents are entitled to due process if they disagree with the proposed IEP, and/or appeal the State agency’s decision to State or Federal court.

—Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability in employment.

—Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD: Parents are entitled to reasonable accommodations to enable their participation in their child’s educational decision-making, including requests for oral interpretation and written translation of reports to the parent’s primary language.
Parents can bring someone with them to IEP meetings. If a parent disagrees with an IEP, he can attempt to resolve the disagreement at during the IEP meeting, if unsuccessful, he can request Mediation, or Due Process Proceedings

And in California, government-funded regional centers—which administer services to people with a wide range of developmental disabilities—have seen their budgets slashed as the state tries to come to terms with is deepening budget hole. So as well intentioned as the laws might be, access to resources is a problem, especially if you are low-income.

Particularly troubling is the lack of information available in Spanish in a state where the Latino birthrate has far eclipsed all other groups.

“A lot of the pamphlets we have are in English and we try to get as many as we can in Spanish but it’s [just] not there,” according to Angelica Herrera, a parent coordinator at Fiesta Educativa, a nonprofit advocacy and service provider with seven chapters across California, including one in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights.

Next to the Los Angeles Unified School District, ELARC is the largest provider of services to people living in the East and Northeast L.A. area.

Sixty-nine percent of East Los Angeles Regional Center’s 9,000 clients are of Hispanic descent, and 2,000 have Autism, according to ELARC’s executive director, Gloria M. Wong. A quarter of the autistic clients, of all ages, come from monolingual Spanish-speaking homes, Wong said.

But the center does not translate their Individual Program Plans (IPPs) — the service contacts they have with their clients — into Spanish. According to Wong, they do not translate legal documents.

Some disability rights advocates see this as a problem.

But Wong says the Lanterman Act does not require regional centers to translate client IPPs. The Act only requires that a parent or client understand the information discussed at an IPP meeting, she said.

ELARC says it meets the language needs of their Latino clients by hiring bilingual service coordinators. Eighty-four percent of its 133 service coordinators, who manage client cases, are fluent in English and Spanish, according to Wong. “The number of Hispanic, bilingual service coordinators far exceed monolingual Spanish-speakers,” Wong told EGP.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, which has about 11,000 students diagnosed with Autism, will translate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and provide an interpreter if requested to, according to Nancy Franklin, LAUSD special education administrator. The IEP is a contract to establish what special services and resources a special needs student will receive from their local school or the district, and details the student’s academic goals for the year.

The failure to translate IEPs has resulted in the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC), located at Loyola Law School Public Interest Law Center in downtown Los Angeles, filing complaints both at the school district level and with the US Office of Civil Rights, according to DRLC Executive Director, Paula D. Pearlman.

Pearlman says ELARC’s failure to offer translated IPPs appears to be a clear violation of their client’s rights.

Some Local Resources
While a handful of Autism-related organizations and agencies offer parent workshops in English, and to a lesser extent in Spanish, most are located outside the greater East Los Angeles area.
Fiesta Educativa and Centro Estrella Family Resource Center are two local resources where Spanish-speaking parents can seek information and support.
Fiesta Educativa holds weekly “Fiesta Familiar” parent/caregiver support meetings at different homes in the East and Northeast Los Angeles area. The organization will host their 34th annual statewide Conference on Sept. 28 in Los Angeles.
For more information visit http://www.fiestaeducativa.org/ or call (323) 221-6696.
For information on Centro Estrella Family Resource Center services, visit http://www.almafamilyservices.org/centro_estrella.asp or call (323) 526-4016.

“Where’s your recourse if you don’t know what you have?” or what you agreed to, Pearlman said.

She says while the document may be verbally translated at the IPP meeting, when the parent or client goes home he or she may not be able to read it over or understand it.

“I appreciate what they are trying to do [with bilingual staff], but it is not the same. It doesn’t give parents full empowerment,” she said.

Failing to translate IPPs for parents who do not understand English is discrimination, she said. “In this society where knowledge is power, not providing it in a language they can access is disempowering, it does nothing to service the kids and adults,” Pearlman said.

ELARC is one of 21 regional centers in California funded by the California’s Developmental Services Department. The department has recently come under scrutiny by lawmakers who question the inequalities of funding at regional centers—specifically the considerably less funding for services for Black and Latino children.

Last year, LA Times reporter Alan Zarembo found that one regional center in Orange County spends about $18,000 in services per child, while the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center spends less than $2,000 on each child diagnosed with Autism.

The City of Bell Gardens, where the population is over 95 percent Latino and predominantly Spanish speaking, is in the South Central service area.
Among the South Central regional center’s clients are 257 children and adults from Bell Gardens who have been diagnosed with a permanent cognitive developmental disability, according to Maura McGinnis Gibney of the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center Family Resource Center. She said the center will translate IPPs, but only if requested by the client.

Emily Iland, president of the Autism Society of America, Los Angeles and a researcher at Cal State University, Northridge, says newly immigrated, poor, monolingual Spanish-speaking single mothers of Mexican origin are the least likely to get regional center services for a child diagnosed with Autism.

Next month, the California Journal of Health Promotion will publish Iland’s study, Half a Chance is Not Enough: Latina Mothers of Children with Autism Struggle for Equity. Her work focuses on the factors that impede Latina mothers from accessing services for their children with Autism.

Iland writes that personal, familial and societal barriers, such as language, level of education, socioeconomic status, immigration status, cultural issues, and unfamiliarity with the service system, are some of the barriers that block Latina mothers from accessing early intervention services for their autistic children.

She says institutional barriers for Spanish-speakers, such as the lack of adequate verbal and written translations, are becoming more evident.

But it’s not just the government-funded programs that are failing to meet the needs of Spanish speakers; the large nonprofit advocacy groups don’t offer many resources to this population either. There are no national Latino organizations advocating for the rights of the Spanish speaking Autism population. In the nonprofit world, Autism speaks English.

“With forty-four percent of Los Angeles speaking Spanish or being Latino, we are all struggling to keep up with the demand. At Autism Society of America, Los Angeles, we plan to do so, but we need funding,” Iland said.

Talk About Curing Autism’s (TACA’s) Spanish program outreach coordinator, Mari Nalbandian, says parents have to take the initiative. She told EGP a school district interpreter at an IEP meeting is often just a “bilingual” custodian or secretary brought into to translate, but says a lot can be lost in translation.

She suggests parents ask in writing for a qualified interpreter, who makes a living as a translator, to attend an IEP meeting. She also notes it can take weeks or months for a parent to receive a translated IEP.

“Parents are lost, they know their child needs services, but they don’t know which those could be. A parent, as part of an IEP team, can request services that are appropriate,” she said. But “Most parents go, sign the IEP without understanding what kinds of services, or the specific needs of their child could be.”

TACA has been outreaching to the Latino population since 2009, according to Nalbandian She says parents must make an effort to attend IEP meetings, and learn how they can contribute to their child’s educational goals and achievements … But first, she says, they need to understand Autism and their child’s particular needs.

There are several guides in Spanish on Autism put out by local organizations, seek them out, read them, “no one expects you to read them in a week,” Nalbandian said, explaining that’s the first step to knowing about an autistic child’s rights.

“All I can do is provide information… I can’t do the work for them. Some parents are lost, they want you to do it for them, but they will have to do it for many years to come,” she said.

However, TACA and other mainstream Autism awareness groups’ presence in East Los Angeles’ Spanish-speaking community leaves a lot to be desired. TACA, for example, holds parent workshops and support group meetings in West Covina, a long distance to travel for low-income
families dependent on public transportation.

Disability Rights has published an online guide, the Children’s Benefits Access Guide, to educate parents of children with disabilities in Los Angeles County who may be eligible for public programs. The guide, however, is not available in Spanish due to lack of funding, Pearlman said.
Spanish-speaking parents can be hard to reach and face many obstacles when trying to access information and services for a child with autism — some are self-imposed, others are institutional.

No matter the reasons, however, the cost of doing nothing is too high, both to children with autism and the communities where they live. One of the first steps to turn things around is to make sure more culturally sensitive information is available in Spanish and English, and to empower Latinos parents so they can in turn ensure that their children are prepared for adulthood and ready to contribute to society.

EGP Staff Writer Gloria Angelina Castillo was inspired to write this series based on her own experience with her son, who has been diagnosed with Autism and receives services through ELARC and LAUSD.

In the past two weeks, EGP published the first and second part of this series focused on the issues that make it difficult for local monolingual Spanish-speaking parents to find information about autism and available services.

Read Part 1: While the number of Latinos diagnosed with autism is growing, getting information in Spanish is challenging.

Read Part 2: Autism, the Risk of Doing Nothing

This story was produced in collaboration with the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Journalism Fellowships.

Study: One in 10 U.S. Veterans Does Not Have No Health Insurance

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One in 10 veterans under the age of 65 is currently living without health insurance and reports not using Veterans Affairs (VA) health care, according to a new study examining health care access for retired service members.

The report, which also found a high number of veterans’ family members living without insurance, notes such rates are highest in states that have made little progress in implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. These states account for 40 percent of uninsured veterans.

Despite a myriad of health issues, a large number of the county’s veteran’s lack health insurance.

Despite having higher rates of health insurance than the general population, “an estimated 1.3 million veterans lack health insurance coverage and do not use VA health care,” noted the study’s co-author, Genevieve Kenney, who points out a majority of uninsured veterans tend to be younger and less well educated.

The study, released Thursday by the non-partisan Urban Institute, comes as the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision on the fate of the ACA. A ruling is expected in June.

If upheld, about 630,000 uninsured veterans under the age of 65 would likely qualify for Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance program for the poor, which would be expanded under the law. Under current law, just one in 10 qualifies for the program.

Another 520,000 uninsured vets would be eligible for subsidized health coverage in new marketplaces, or insurance exchanges, mandated under the ACA. This would also benefit close to 80 percent of the nearly one million family members of uninsured vets.

There are currently around 13 million veterans between the ages of 19 and 64 living in the United States. Some 17 percent of those without insurance report suffering from service-related disabilities or functional limitations, while 41 percent say they have unmet medical needs. Another 34 percent say they have delayed care due to cost, the report notes.

With two wars winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq, the findings also showed that one in four uninsured veterans served between September
2001 and 2010.

The report is the first to examine rates of health insurance among veterans on both the national and state level. There are several states with more than 14 percent uninsured – Louisiana, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. On average, uninsurance is higher among those that have “taken only limited steps toward implementing exchanges under the ACA,” according to the report.

Texas and California are each home to more than 100,000 uninsured vets, the study found.

While the authors of the report say more aggressive implementation of the ACA would help ameliorate the problem, J.P. Tremblay, spokesperson for the California Department of Veterans Affairs, says the real issue is making sure vets understand the benefits available to them through the VA system.

“Many don’t know,” says Tremblay, who explains that when returning home, soldiers “get a week of transition services” – meaning they sit in a class while someone lectures them on accessing benefits. The problem, he says, is that most are only thinking of one thing, and that’s “getting home.”

Tremblay says the ACA is in many ways modeled after the VA system, which he describes as “top notch,” adding that all returning vets are guaranteed coverage for the first five years. The challenge, he says, is “getting into the system.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other maladies common to service members can take time to manifest, he explains, so many put off registering. When they do experience symptoms, it can exacerbate frustrations of trying to register for the first time.

Reports of lengthy waits and delayed process times for claims have become fairly common since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Urban Institute report also suggested that proximity to a VA center could be one of the reasons explaining whether or not service members accessed the health care that was available to them. Expanded coverage through the ACA, authors contend, would provide a greater availability of options for veterans and their family members.

They do note, however, that with increased options come problems of fragmented care. Those accessing both VA and non-VA coverage, for example, may need “targeted assistance… to help them make informed choices that do not disrupt the care they have been receiving.”

With uninsured veterans accounting for roughly 5 percent of the nation’s 47 million people without health insurance, the study concludes, “more aggressive ACA implementation” will help ensure they get the care they need.

Board of Supervisors Ready To Appoint Assessor, If Needed

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The Board of Supervisors confirmed Tuesday that it has the authority to appoint a new assessor if John Noguez resigns, is recalled or convicted of malfeasance, but it put off any action on a proposed ballot initiative that would gauge voter interest in making the job an appointed position, rather than an elected one.

District Attorney Steve Cooley and other officials have called on Noguez to resign in the face of allegations that his office reduced the assessed value of properties in exchange for campaign contributions.

Because Noguez is an elected official, the board has no authority to fire him. He has denied wrongdoing and shown no indication that he would resign.

An indictment without a conviction would not constitute a vacancy, but if Noguez were to stop fulfilling the duties of his office for three months, the board would have the right to appoint a replacement. The appointee would serve until a new assessor could be elected.

But Supervision Mike Antonovich said he would like to know what voters want. He suggested that county lawyers prepare a resolution for the November ballot, asking voters if they wanted to amend the state constitution and county charter to make the assessor’s office an appointed post.

When the question was last put to voters in 1986, about 85 percent rejected it.

The board postponed discussion of Antonovich’s recommendation for two weeks.

So far, just one arrest has been made. Scott Schenter, 49, an appraiser who worked in the Assessor’s Office from 1988 to 2011, was arrested May 21 and charged with 60 felony counts of falsifying accounts and records.

He allegedly slashed property values by about $172 million to lower tax bills for owners of multimillion-dollar homes, condominiums and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, in exchange for political contributions for Noguez.

If convicted, Schenter could face up to 33 years in prison.

Job Market Still Tough For Youth As Summer Approaches

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Faced with budget restraints, the city of Commerce has converted a summer youth employment program from a paid gig to a volunteer program with a stipend.

While the program will still expose over eighty Commerce youth between the ages of 14 and 19 to valuable on the job experience in different city departments, youth volunteers will not receive $8 an hour as in years past, but a $500 stipend for their 200 hours of volunteer service.

Cutbacks in cities like Commerce are one more reminder of how difficult it has become for teens to participate in the age-old American tradition of working a summer job. In addition to giving local youth an opportunity to learn important lessons in responsibility and money management, summer jobs can be a way for them to earn cash to help their families — many of them still struggling in a tough economy.

California’s youth unemployment rate has remained persistently high in recent years. In April, the unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 16 and 19 ranked higher than any other age group at 36.1 percent, up from the previous month.

July is considered the peak summer month for youth employment. In July 2010, the nation’s unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 hit a record high, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Youth employment has increased since then, but last year the growth slowed.

Local teens can go through their high school career centers to obtain work permits, often finding employment at major retailers and food establishments in the area, including at the Montebello Town Center in Montebello and the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, but the competition is always tough.

At the Pac Sun located at the Citadel Outlets, store manager Frank Gutierrez says the number of job applications they get from local teens has always been high, and this year is no different. The manager at another clothing company in the outlet said they will start hiring soon, but that they have fewer spots available this summer than in previous years.

Patty Escobedo, a career technical education specialist at Bell Gardens High School’s career center, says so far they have only given out two work permits since the summer job search season started in April, and the number of job postings they receive have gone down in recent years. “Now that adults have lost their jobs, the students are competing with adults for these jobs too,” she added.

Armando Loza, Youth Department Manager at Hub Cities Consortium WorkSource Center in Huntington Park, says more of the youth job funding coming from the government is being funneled to teens whose families face financial hardships. He says their center, which services Bell Gardens and other southeast area cities, has funding for a youth employment program this year, but only for youth whose families are on food stamps and cash assistance. “I guess what they’re trying to do is figure out which youth are in more need,” Loza said.

He has seen the job market become more competitive with youth competing with more and more adults for jobs. While young people are not expected to be the breadwinners of their families, and they are often not saddled with bills to pay, Loza thinks summer jobs are an invaluable educational tool.

“It keeps them off the streets, keeps them busy, and helps them understand the value of a dollar… it goes a long way in helping them quickly realize how fast money is spent,” Loza said.

Local youth get work experience through programs like the Sheriff's explorer program and a summer afterschool program in Compton. They were referred to these opportunities by the Huntington Park-based Hub Cities Consortium, a Worksource job resource center serves the Southeast Los Angeles area, including Bell Gardens, Maywood, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Cudahy and South Gate. (Photo courtesy of Hub Cities Consortium)

Their center’s youth employment program receives funding from the federal government, through a program called the Worker Investment Act, which has allocated funding to youth employment programs since 1998. One of the key components of the program is an emphasis on the link between academic performance and preparation for the workforce. From 2009 to 2010, WorkSource centers like theirs received stimulus funding, but that funding his since run out, Loza said.

In preparation for this summer, the federal government recently announced a “call to action” to get private employers to commit to offering jobs to youth, setting up a website at http://www.dol.gov/summerjobs/ for this purpose. The call came after Congress chose not to allocate $1.5 billion for summer jobs and year round youth employment programs. The goal of the call to action is to produce 250,000 “employment opportunities” for youth this summer, with at least 100,000 of those jobs being paid employment. In previous years the federal government was able to get 80,000 commitments from private companies to employ youth.

‘Medal of Freedom’ Bestowed on Latina Labor Activist

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President Barack Obama on Tuesday presented the “Medal of Freedom,” the highest civilian honor granted in the U.S., to Mexican American activist Dolores Huerta and 12 other persons whom he described as “individual heroes.”

During a packed ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Obama said each of the award recipients had “profoundly” changed his life. Some of the achievements that had earned them this place in history were cited during the award ceremony.

The president highlighted Huerta’s militancy in organizing farm workers, and how her slogan “Yes we can!” was “stolen” for his 2008 election campaign.

In 1962, Huerta and Cesar Chavez founded the National Association of Rural Workers, which went on to become the “UFW,” the most influential union for farm laborers in the country.

During a roundtable discussion with Spanish-language media held before the White House ceremony, the octogenarian activist — who has 11 children, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren— said Hispanics now number 52 million people in the U.S., but will only make a difference if they get organized and if those who can, register to vote.

“We have to bring the marches to neighborhood streets, and mobilize people to vote. Democracy will suffer if we do not organize … If we do not take civic and political action, nothing will change,” said Huerta, insisting that immigration reform will come only if “poor people, working people” are organized.

During the ceremony, Obama said the eclectic group of winners has left a mark on the nation and are a “phenomenal” group.

‘What distinguishes these men and women is the incredible impact they have had on so many people, not in short stunning blows, but for a lifetime,” Obama said. They have all “enriched our lives.”

Stressing his personal connection with some of the honorees, Obama noted the impact made by the works of novelist Toni Morrison, and the songs by Bob Dylan, and the heroism of retired astronaut John Glenn.

Dylan captured in his songs “something about this country that was so vital,” and many artists, “from Bruce Springsteen to U2 should be grateful. There is no bigger giant in the history of American music,” Obama said.

The president said he chose Glenn for the award because in his mind, his exploits, including being the third American in space and the first to orbit the Earth, makes him “a hero in every sense” of the word.

The medal recipient list also includes Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as Secretary of State (1997-2001), leading efforts to expand NATO and strengthen its leadership in the fight against terrorism, in addition to spearheading peace efforts in Africa and the Middle East; Attorney John Doar for his leadership during the civil rights era; Dr. William Foege, who helped to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s; African American novelist Toni Morrison, the retired Supreme Court Judge John Paul Stevens and basketball great Patricia “Pat” Summitt.

Obama presented the award posthumously to relatives of three of the winners: Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927), founder of the Girl Scouts; Jan Karski (1914-2000), Polish-American who fought the Nazis in World War II, and Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012 ), a sociologist who led the resistance to the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps during that war.

Obama said he would issue the 1994 Nobel Prize medal to President Shimon Peres, when it arrives at the White House next month.

Kidnap and Torture Suspects Arrested

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Three suspected gang members were in custody Wednesday while a fourth was being sought for allegedly kidnapping a married couple in Pico Rivera and torturing the husband over an unpaid debt.

The kidnapping occurred on May 13, said Lt. Erik Ruble of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Operation Safe Streets Bureau.

The man was held for five days in a garage at a residence in the 8800 block of Clarinda Avenue in Pico Rivera, while his wife was let go and ordered to come back with $6,000 to secure his release, he said, adding that at one point she was forced at gunpoint to sign over ownership of her vehicle.

The kidnappers taped the man to a chair and cut his ear with a knife, Ruble said. They also heated a knife and burned a four-letter epithet onto his stomach area and smashed his fingers with a handgun, all while threatening to kill him, he said.

The man eventually escaped when his captors put him into a car and left the garage.

Law enforcement was contacted and the man’s wife was located, Ruble said. Investigators then served a search warrant at the Pico Rivera residence of George Steven Karavolos, 33, and seized evidence, including a handgun and the knife used against the victims, he said.

Karavolos was arrested May 23, along with parolee Alfonso Eric Acuna, 32, and Francisco Xavier Barraza, 35. Still at large is suspect Javier Francis, 49, for whom a felony arrest warrant has been issued, Ruble said.

All of the suspects are from Pico Rivera and are known “Rivera 13” gang members, he said.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on May 25 filed two counts of extortion, aggravated mayhem, torture, kidnapping for ransom, making criminal threats and gang enhancements against the suspects, Ruble said.

Karavolos was being held in the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles and Barraza was jailed at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, each in lieu of $4 million bail, according to sheriff’s online booking records.

Acuna was jailed at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles on a no-bail hold, according to the Sheriff’s Department website.
All three are due to appear in Whittier Municipal Court on June 8, according to online booking records.

Are You Planning to Vote on Tuesday?

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Every election season we write an editorial urging people eligible to vote to get out and cast their ballot.

While it takes less than an hour of your time to go to the polls and fill out your ballot — and probably much less given the usual poor turnout —the results of the election, like them or not, are much longer lasting.

Newspapers, radio stations, television stations, blogs, candidates and hordes of their pumped up volunteers are all trying to entice you to go out and vote. All of this effort and loads of money are focused on one goal, getting you to the polls, and, okay, getting you to vote a certain way.

We can go on and on about it being your patriotic duty to the country, and a democratic right people in other parts of the world wished they had, but the truth is voting is in your self-interest, especially in this coming election on June 8th, when redistricting has brought about big changes in some voting districts.

We constantly hear and read about the low level of confidence voters have in their elected officials, well now, it’s up to you to make a change.

So next Tuesday, instead of just griping about what ails you, make a statement at the ballot box.

June 5 Ballot Recommendation Recap

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Presidential Primary—Barack Obama

US Senator – Diana Feinstein

United States Representatives

27th District – Judy Chu
32nd District – Grace Napolitano
34th District – Xavier Beccera
40th District – Lucille Roybal-Allard

California State Senate
District 33 – Ricardo Lara

California State Assembly
49th District – Edwin Chau
51st District – Arturo Chavez
53rd District – John Perez

Los Angeles County District Attorney – Carmen Trutanich

State Ballot Measures
Proposition 28: Limits on Legislators’ Term in Office – YES
Proposition 29: Imposes Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research – NO

Los Angeles County Measures
Measure H: Los Angeles County Hotel Occupancy Tax Continuation Measure—YES
Measure L: Los Angeles County Landfill Tax Continuation Measure— YES

Vernon City Council
— No Recommendation

Building Bridges Not Walls

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My home state of South Carolina has imposed a tough new law to address “illegal” immigration. Like many recently enacted state immigration laws – which bear a curious similarity from state to state – South Carolina now requires law enforcement officers to check the backgrounds of those they suspect may be in the country illegally, makes it a crime to harbor or transport illegal immigrants, requires immigrants to carry Federal registration documents at all times and requires employers to verify the legal status of all new employees. South Carolina’s immigration law also, however, provides legal status verification exemptions for agricultural laborers, private residence domestic workers, ministers and fishermen on crews with ten or more hands.

Those exemptions, with the exception of the one provided for ministers, are perfectly understandable to me. I’m a lifelong resident of the state that started the Civil War to defend an economic system based on slavery, designed urban public transit systems to get domestic workers to their employers’ homes, Constitutionally mandates a “minimally adequate” public education and recently enacted a Voter ID law to combat “voter fraud,” although there’s scant evidence of voter fraud in our state.

Those exemptions accomplish two things familiar to those who know South Carolina’s history. They offer incendiary inspiration to those easily swayed by the politics of fear and division, and they assure that the affluent who need a cheap and ready labor force won’t be unduly inconvenienced. What’s truly frightening is that other States are now in step with South Carolina, which isn’t exactly a sterling example of educational or economic progress.

The immigration laws passed in many States – like Arizona’s SB 1070 currently being considered by the United States Supreme Court – are convenient tools for social control. Like the Jim Crow laws in the early to mid 20th Century American South, the new immigration laws enable some struggling citizens to blame “those people” for their failure to achieve instead of asking hard questions about systemic economic and social inequities. They also enable elected officials who choose not to run on their records or ideas to fan the flames of division for political advantage and prevent honest consideration of what’s best for all Americans.

Some of those laws are already being “tweaked” in ways that speak to their real intent. In Alabama, legislators are struggling with protests from business interests whose low wage workers have fled the State by the thousands and the negative publicity of a German Mercedes executive’s detention for failure to produce his “papers.” In Arizona, the law was revised to make its inherent need for racial profiling less pointed and more palatable. Trying to mask the intent of those laws, however, is like trying to hide a skunk in a perfume factory – things still don’t smell quite right.

The evolving legal history of immigration in the United States is instructive in considering the new wave of state immigration laws. The Naturalization Act of 1790 extended citizenship only to “free white persons.” The Immigration Act of 1924 sought to stem the tide of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. Nation of origin quotas weren’t abolished until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

Whether our ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, in the holds of slave ships like the Amistad or in the “steerage” of ocean liners in the early 20th century, the majority of Americans today are the descendants of immigrants. The sad fact is that those whose families have been here for a generation or two are hostile to those seeking new opportunity in America.

If we are to be the world’s self-professed “melting pot,” then we can’t put the lid on the pot when it comes to admitting those who don’t look like or don’t worship or think in ways acceptable to us. I hope that the Supreme Court will remember that when considering the Constitutionality of the latest wave of immigration laws so that we can address 21st century immigration realities, pave the way for new Americans to pursue the American dream and focus on building new American bridges instead of erecting new American walls.

The Reverend Joseph A. Darby is Pastor of Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. American Forum. 5/12

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