Immigration documentary explores meaning of ‘American’

By Heidi Carreon, Neon Tommy

As the sun beat down on day two of the L.A. Times Festival of Books, visitors stayed cool in the University of Southern California’s darkened Ray Stark theater. But the room was silent as a documentary opened with bustling scenes of Manila, capital of the Philippines, flickering across the screen.

“I always knew I was going to America,” the words of Jose Antonio Vargas, activist and Pulitzer Prize Winner, echoed throughout the room. “America seemed…inevitable.” [Read more…]

South LA mom in drowning case under psychiatric evaluation

Shocked reaction from residents near home of Lorna Valle, mother accused of drowning her child
By Josh Woo

Neighbors have placed teddy bears, flowers, and hand-written signs in front of the Valle-Taque home, where one-year old Lindsey was drowned.

Lorna Valle, 32, was booked with murder at the 77th Street Division Jail. The LA Times reports her 5-year-old daughter is in serious condition at Children’s Hospital. A court date has not yet been set.

The day after Valle allegedly drowned her 1-year-old daughter and attempted to drown her 5-year-old daughter, neighbors on the 900 block of West 50th Street are restless.

Judy McCann has been a foster parent, and is taking this hard because there were children involved. She was at home when the police arrived Wednesday morning.

“Last night I didn’t sleep very well, just thinking about this tragedy,” she said. “The oldest one was prayerful, her eyes sitting in the back of her head… I was just praying that they could save both of them. But the dad was just beating his head on the side of the fence, screaming, ‘Why’d you kill my kids? Why didn’t you kill yourself?’”

McCann’s son, Thomas Burton, knew the oldest daughter. He’s also in disbelief that something like this could happen to a little girl that always waved at him as she passed by.

Interview in Spanish with Pablo César García Sáenz, Consul General of the Consulate of Guatemala in Los Angeles:

The Consul General of the Consulate of Guatemala in Los Angeles, Pablo César García Sáenz, spoke with Lorna Valle on Wednesday night. He says she is currently undergoing a series of psychological tests at L.A. County Hospital. García Sáenz says Valle’s emotional state is “complicated.”

He has also spoken with the father, José Taque, who is very distraught and is at his older daughter’s bedside at the hospital.

The Guatemalan consulate is helping Taque, with the arrangements to send the body of his younger daughter to be buried in Guatemala. They are also providing legal assistance to both Valle and her husband.

Given that there are reports that Valle was turned down for psychiatric care, García Sáenz points out the consulate works closely with several agencies in Los Angeles and has a network of places where they refer Guatemalan nationals where to seek help.

“All the neighbors were watching her and never complained about her. She would go to the store and buy her popcorn and her hot Cheetos, and when she’d come back she’d have her little boots on. I saw her every day.”

Whatever drove Valle over the edge, Burton says, probably wasn’t the kids themselves.

“She took care of her kids. Every time I saw her, she always had her kids. They weren’t neglected. So it was something else that triggered it, and I don’t know what that is. I wished she would’ve talked to God about it and let her kids go.”

For now, teddy bears, flowers, and hand-written signs adorn the front of the toddler’s home–a painful reminder of a life gone too soon.

Did lack of access to mental health care contribute to the Valle tragedy?
By Melissa Runnels

Lorna Valle is reportedly under psychiatric evaluation today, as authorities try to determine what may have led to the drowning and attempted drowning of her two children. Guatemalan Vice-Consul Ricardo Jiron visited Valle last night after she was arrested. He said she appeared “very sleepy”, and that “We will try to prove that she was under the influence of a lot of medication.”

The consulate will pay for Valle’s legal representation, representation for her husband, and for transportation of the body of Valle’s daughter to Guatemala for burial.

It remains unclear whether Valle sought help and was refused, or whether she hesitated to get the help she needed.

If you’re undocumented in California, you have few options for medical care: you can go to an emergency room or to a neighborhood clinic, but most medical facilities are not required to serve undocumented immigrants.

Says Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Director of Communications for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), “It is inhumane, but it is legal.”

Most undocumented immigrants seek health care from local clinics, many of which do not offer mental health services. Even if the clinics do have mental health services, the wait time can be lengthy. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center provides mental health care to the undocumented at many of its clinics. But, said one of their intake counselors, first you have to get a physical examination and then you can be referred to one of their few mental health specialists. The wait-time for an appointment for the physical can be lengthy—the list is currently full until sometime in April.

Then there’s the shame factor. Cabrera said:

“Studies have shown that recent immigrants are less likely to go to medical facilities and receive services precisely because they do not want to be a burden to the society or the new country that has welcomed them…No hospital is supposed to deny services because of immigration status—but we do hear cases of clients being harassed by medical personnel because they lack documents.”

It won’t be known until after Valle’s psychiatric evaluation is completed exactly what the circumstances were that led to the tragic deaths of her children.

Central American leaders call for TPS extensions

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageImmigrant leaders from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador gathered outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles today to call for an extension of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) agreement that guards undocumented nationals from those countries against deportation.

Honduras and Nicaragua’s temporary protected status agreements began in 1999, after Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of their infrastructure. It began for El Salvador in 2001, after a series of earthquakes. The Department of Homeland Security has routinely extended these agreements since and the next round of extensions is expected to occur on schedule.

More importantly, the leaders want to remind the nearly 300,000 nationals from these three countries who will be eligible to extend their protected status to do so to avoid deportation.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week that the Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants over the past year. For the Central American groups, extending these TPS agreements is only a small band-aid for a much larger problem. The ultimate goal is comprehensive immigration reform, citizenship for all undocumented Central American immigrants.

“We are living in the worst times in terms of anti-immigrant sentiment of the United States, said Francisco Rivera, President of Central American Round Table. “It’s in the best interest for the national security of this country to give a solution.”

While they want the TPS programs extended, the leaders note that beneficiaries end up spending a significant amount of money to participate. Julio Cardoza of Casa Nicaragua says the U.S. government has earned 60 million from Central American immigrants over the past decade from program fees for work permits.

“I think it’s enough money that they took from these people. We are supporting the economy, because it’s a tremendous amount of money,” Cardoza said. “That’s why we believe, in order to make justice for these people, we are asking to give them residency.”

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce expansion of the TPS program by November fifth.

Sobriety checkpoints continue to raise tensions in South L.A.

Dozens of demonstrators assembled near the Slauson Avenue 110 freeway onramp Friday night in a watchdog effort to verify that LAPD officers conducting a sobriety checkpoint were not impounding vehicles of drivers whose sole discretion was being unlicensed.


Until a recent policy change, drivers caught without a license immediately lost their cars to an impound lot. The new policy allows unlicensed drivers to contact the registered vehicle owner within a “reasonable” amount of time, according to a notice released by Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing and Commander Stephen R. Jacobs on March 10.

“Just because they’ve changed the policy doesn’t mean they’re actually abiding by it, which is why we’re here,” said Colleen Flynn, member of the National Lawyers Guild. Guild lawyers, members of the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), the International Socialist Organization and independent activists lined the street with signs intended to alert drivers of the checkpoint underneath the freeway bridge.

Before the checkpoint began screening cars, LAPD Sergeant Damon Aoki of the Central Traffic Division approached demonstrators to request that they not impede the flow of traffic, especially during a green light.

“This is not a driver’s license checkpoint. This is a sobriety checkpoint.” Aoki told demonstrators. “We generally cite for an unlicensed driver, but we give them a fair amount of time in order to call somebody that has a license—who has to be a registered owner—who then can give permission to another licensed driver if they don’t have one.”

Aoki estimated 30 minutes as a “fair amount of time” and explained that they require the vehicle’s registered owner to be present in order to release the vehicle because of liability issues. The traffic division conducts checkpoints about once a month. No cars were impounded on the night of the demonstration.


“They do catch some drunk drivers, which is great,” said Ron Gochez, a member of Union del Barrio, an activist group within the SCIC. “This is a positive step for us, … but it’s not the end all.” Gochez explained that his group wants police to further amend the policy to allow unlicensed drivers to call any licensed driver—not just the registered owner—to take over the vehicle in case they are pulled over or screened at a checkpoint.

“We’re doing this to educate the community to let them know that they have the legal right to organize and protest to show their repudiation of these practices,” said Gochez. He noted that many community members have begun protesting on their own accord, coming out of their homes with anti-checkpoint signs and text messaging their neighbors when checkpoints are taking place.

image“We’ve very visible,” Gochez said. “They know we’re here.”