How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Border deaths mark a sobering end to an intense month in the immigration debate

As we close a particularly intense month of public and political debate tied to immigration - the protests in Arizona over SB 1070, the controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, the talk of "anchor babies" as some GOP leaders push to end birthright citizenship - a couple of stories from the border this week have provided sobering context to the vociferous immigration debate.

On Tuesday in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, not far from Brownsville, Texas, Mexican marines discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 72 migrants, men and women from Central and South America. According to the sole survivor, a 18-year-old man from Ecuador who escaped with gunshot woulds and alerted authorities, theĀ 58 men and 14 women hailing from Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras and El Salvador were on their way to the United States after having illegally traversed Mexico.


Ground Zero's distant past: Before Little Syria, a burial ground for slaves


Photo by Wally Gobetz/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A plaque outside New York's Civic Center in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Ground Zero

Earlier this week, in a post about the so-called Ground Zero mosque, I highlighted a great post from KPCC contributor Marc Haefele on the history of the Ground Zero site in Lower Manhattan, lately tied to a vociferous controversy over the planned construction of an Islamic cultural center a couple of blocks from the location of the former World Trade Center. In the post, he described the area's history a century ago as Manhattan's old Arab District, referred to then as "Little Syria."

Mother Jones has now peeled away another layer of the historical onion, pointing out that before Little Syria existed, Lower Manhattan was the place where African slaves were buried. From the story:


Bracero film wins audience award for best documentary at Latino film festival
A documentary about the Bracero labor program, which brought millions of Mexican farm workers to the United States as temporary laborers between the early 1940s and early 1960s, has won the audience choice award for best documentary at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, where several films this year addressed the topic of immigration.

The winning documentary, "Harvest of Loneliness," features interviews with former Braceros and their families, chronicling the hardship and exploitation endured and examining what might be expected from a new temporary worker program, if one is implemented. The film was directed by Gilbert G. Gonzales and Vivian Price, professors at UC Irvine and CSU Dominguez Hills, respectively. The Venezuelan soccer drama "Hermano" (Brother), won the audience choice award for best feature.