Amnesty prospects: Where do they come from, and where do they live?

IMPERIAL, Calif.—The first day of Senate debate on immigration reform ended in Washington today with several proposed changes accepted and several tossed by the 18-member committee poring over the merits of the almost 900-page S. 744, the proposed ‘‘Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.’’

The bill would offer conditional amnesty and a path to citizenship to an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., among other provisions, all of which will require months of debate and amending before adoption. In the meantime, fundamental questions like where those millions of people come from and where they live in America beg some answers. Statistics in the following video come from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Public Policy Institute of California.

The “Caveman diet” is catching on among health-conscious gym enthusiasts

IMPERIAL, Calif.–Brittany Weiderman doesn’t look like a caveman, but she sure eats like one.  This five-foot tall, 115-pound beauty gets her muscle by push-pressing nearly half her weight and following one of the latest popular diets, the Paleo. “Going Paleo helped everything from my mood to my digestive system. I really noticed a difference in how I felt in a matter of days,” the 25-year-old El Centro hair stylist said. “I’ve had less bloating and more energy that lasts throughout the day instead of just spurts of energy.”

Weiderman converted to the Paleo lifestyle, which is gaining popularity like the previous fads such as the Atkins or South Beach diets.  Paleo has become famous all over the map, even in the Imperial Valley. The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Caveman diet, gets its name from the idea that our bodies are made to digest foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed.  The paleolithic era was before the agricultural revolution, which proponents claim caused “diseases of civilization,” such as obesity, hypertension, and inflammatory diseases.

Calexico native wins prestigious prize to study credit dependency among recent immigrants

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif. – Calexico native and former Imperial Valley College student Luis Flores has been awarded the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate prize to pursue a hands-on solution to educating new immigrants to the U.S. about credit dependency. The $25,000 Stronach award will fund Flores’s “El Valle y la Recesion” project, a visual documentary that will focus on illustrating the difficulties Imperial Valley residents, mainly recent immigrants, struggle with when faced with credit and mortgage decisions. “Rather than blaming immigrants for borrowing too much [money], or for not being educated enough, I want to suggest that there were larger forces compelling immigrants to live a life of credit dependency,” said Flores.  “This project wants to show that the typical explanations of the recession in the region are limited, because they do not look at the history of economic policies in both the Mexicali and Imperial valleys since the 1980s.”

The ultimate result of “El Valle y la Recesion” is to develop an educational and service website, and possibly a bricks-and-mortar service, that will aid border consumers in credit decisions, something that does not exist at this time. Flores, 22, a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with undergraduate degrees in political economy and history, will return to Calexico in August to start his project, which he envisions as a collaboration with IVC, San Diego State University Imperial Valley campus, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Mexicali, and the University of Texas El Paso’s student journalism website

Winning customer service rep on four legs inspires animal rescue and adoption

EL CENTRO, Calif.–Sitting in the window of Dobson’s Antiques here, a six-year-old basset hound-dachshund mix named Lulu is the target of smiles from onlookers and customers as they walk down Main Street. Little do they know how much time, money, and most of all love, that it took for her owner, Cathy Dobson, to rescue Lulu along with approximately 100 other stray and abused dogs she has rescued in the past 20 years. Saving forsaken pets started when she was living in Los Angeles.  “I found a dog lying in the trash can that was only a couple hours old. And that was my first rescue,” Dobson said. She nursed the puppy to health and after a few months found it a home.

Imperial Valley College On Immigration

IMPERIAL, Calif.– With Congress drafting out a concrete plan for immigration reform, students and staff at Imperial Valley College shared their opinions on the matter. About 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. who entered illegally could be offered amnesty and a path to citizenship.

Child-abuse prevention month celebrated in Imperial Valley

EL CENTRO, Calif.–An estimated 15,000 people packed Bucklin Park throughout the day on Saturday April 13, to celebrate Child Abuse Prevention Month at the 34th Annual Children’s Fair. “We hope that families were able to enjoy a beautiful day outside with their children and learn about the resources available to strengthen their families in Imperial County,” said Yvette Garcia, executive director of the Imperial County Child Abuse Prevention Council, the organization that co-sponsored the event with the Imperial County Office of Education. More than 70 businesses and organizations helped entertain and inform attendees young and old alike. Imperial Valley College journalism students spent the day recording the festivities. The following slideshow is a compilation of their work.

Xeriscaping at Imperial Valley College

IMPERIAL, Calif.—Imperial Valley College had a growth spurt in the last three years with a techno-new science building, expanded parking facilities, updated classrooms, and water-friendly landscaping. While the science building is impressive, parking is now abundant, and learning in 21st century classrooms is a reality, it’s the often-overlooked things like one small, bright desert flower, a lush green lawn, or a 40-foot tree providing relief from the heat that might help to nurture pride and performance in study-weary students, faculty and staff. With this facelift came the new philosophy of landscaping the campus with a more “green-friendly,” energy-efficient technology—xeriscaping. Here is a closer look:

Stemming the strays through Imperial Valley’s S.A.N.D.S.

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.–It is difficult to commute from town to town here without encountering any number of dead animals on or near the roadway on any given day; some motorists swerve around the remains, others seem to deliberately aim at the already-decimated animals—dead pigeons on city streets, rabbits or coyotes on rural roads, and countless other carcasses on the I-8 freeway heading east and west between Arizona and San Diego. But most of the time, the heart-wrenching sight of small furry victims on any local street or major byway are stray dogs or cats whose owners might, or might not be wondering where their pets have gone. “From June to November, 500 dogs were picked up (both alive and dead), 169 cats (both alive and dead),” according to Beatrice Palacio, animal control supervisor for the Imperial County Public Health Department, which is charged with policing a 4,500-square-mile realm outside of the county’s cities’ limits. “Live roosters and chickens, dead raccoons, dead skunks, coyotes, and a live sheep, for a total of 707 animals.” And that’s only what Palacio has been able to log in a five-month period of 2012, unknowing if the animals were abandoned, lost, or feral. Holiday generosity and a bad economy

Usually this time of year animal rights organizations often use statistics like those about stray animals to illustrate to holiday revelers how ill-advised impulsive buys of pets as Christmas gifts can be for recipients who may or may not want a furry or feathered friend; who may or may not know how to care for them, or cannot afford to.

Un coquí puertorriqueño atisba su futuro desde el Valle Imperial

EL CENTRO, Calif.– Después de la huelga estudiantil de Mayo 4 del 2010, que forzó el sistema universitario de Puerto Rico a cerrar por tres meses, muchos estudiantes dejamos nuestras casas y familias para continuar nuestros sueños de hacernos profesionales algún día. Siendo una de esos estudiantes que emigramos de Puerto Rico buscando un mejor futuro en los Estados Unidos, me mudé para California para poder continuar mis estudios y no me arrepiento de mi decisión. Me mudé para Imperial Valley porque mis hermanos han estado viviendo aquí desde hace tres años y porque mi hermano mayor vivía en Mexicali, Mex. con su esposa mexicana mientras el terminaba su internado en medicina y ella terminaba su bachillerato en artes plásticas. En su momento decidieron que lo más cercano a nuestro hermano mayor, mejor.

Unwritten rules guide homeless in Imperial Valley

EL CENTRO, Calif. – Vagabonds, vagrants, transients, nomads, hobos, or even the more polite term we use for them, the less fortunate. There are plenty of names for them, but they all refer to the homeless – a subculture of our society that some people often feel uncomfortable with. We often encounter them on a daily basis. At the end of freeway off-ramps, in city parks, fast food restaurants, or sitting outside our own homes under a shady tree.

Behind the scenes of "Annie" at Palmer Auditorium in Brawley, Calif.

Behind the scenes of “Annie” at the Brawley Palmer Auditorium

BRAWLEY, Calif.—The classic Christmastime play, “Annie,” was presented by the North County Coalition for the Arts at Palmer Performing Arts Center here in May, with local lead actors Georg Scott as “Daddy Warbucks,” who shaved his head just for the part, and 11-year-old Molly Wilson as “Annie.”

But, as any theater aficionado knows, all the magic begins back stage. Most of the stage crew consists of high school students from the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program under the instruction of Jason Contreras, known fondly as Mr. C by his students and colleagues. The following video is a behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Imperial Valley’s cosplaying blacksmith heads to Comic-Con

MEXICALI, Mexico–When the sun rises Edgar Mayoral’s hammer strikes the iron on the anvil, creating an ear-piercing clanging sound that resonates throughout the neighborhood in this border city. The 23-year-old El Centro, Calif. resident has a talent to shape cold, lifeless sheets of iron into fantastical and vibrant wearable armor that would make you believe Mayoral has been transformed into a live-action Japanese anime character. A skill that cosplayers—short for “costume play”—and non-cosplayers alike marvel at. “This character has a higher fan base in Mexico than in the U.S.,” says Jerry Travis, 21, an anime scholar from Brawley, Calif.

Vicente Cardenas

Student artists ready for new Imperial Valley College gallery

IMPERIAL, Calif.–Clouds of black smoke hover over a rendition of Earth as three teenagers watch from below the globe, drinking and taking long puffs from cigarettes in their hands, while at their feet little green creatures lay on the ground suffering from unknown maladies. Surreal, yes, but with one final dab of paint, and a few brushstrokes, Vicente Cardenas’ untitled painting is ready for the new student art gallery at Imperial Valley College. “It’s pretty radical,” said Cardenas, 19. “Never had my stuff shown to the public before. It gives you the intense feeling that you’re being heard.”

Cesar Chavez remembered by colleagues at Imperial Valley College

IMPERIAL, Calif.–Students, faculty, and friends gathered in the college center of Imperial Valley College to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day on Thursday. Opening the celebration, was a performance by Mariachi Mixteco, followed by guest speaker Esteban Jaramillo, a comrade of the late labor rights leader. Jaramillo participated in many marches with Chavez, and Chavez unionize farm labor. Jaramillo’s inspiration for wanting to help the farm-working community came from his father. “I worked in the fields with my father for one day,” Jaramillo said.

Imperial Valley residents feel the financial pinch a year after the Easter earthquake

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.–Recovery from the Easter Sunday 7.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked California’s Imperial Valley on April 4, 2010, has been slow for many whose homes or business buildings suffered damage in the historic temblor. In the county seat of El Centro alone losses are estimated at $8 million to buildings and property, according to Ruben Duran, city manager for the City of El Centro. “Everything that we are doing, we are doing on our own dime,” said Duran, who explained during a March 22 news conference that a big part of the county’s recovery is the actual financing of repairs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency committed $178,000, but that might not materialize for decades, Duran noted. FEMA’s contribution is assigned by Congress, but subsequently declared disasters can bump funding for the previous ones.

Border Angels: Help for deportees changed my perspective

MEXICALI, Mexico—While waiting in line at the U.S-Mexico border in Calexico, CA, a person can see on the other side of the border fence people with backpacks looking frightened and lost, some even dirty, asking others for help or money. Many, including myself, just turn away or just say no, not thinking of what they have gone through and automatically judge the person as a bad person, and steer away from them.  These people are deportees a long, long way from their homes and families. After spending 12 hours at a Mexicali refugee camp, Angeles sin Fronteras, a few blocks away from the international border, my perspective towards deportees completely changed. Not only are they good people, but the backbone of America. They do the jobs that many Americans would not even consider doing.

Bilingual workers a plus but not a necessity in Spanish-speaking Imperial Valley

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.– The second most common language in the United States, Spanish, is the primary language spoken at home by more than 35.5 million Americans aged 5 or older. Businesses all over the nation are looking for bilingual applicants to help turn these people into new customers. But how important is it in the workplace? Being only minutes away from the U.S.- Mexican border, it would seem local businesses are favoring bilingual applicants in order to provide better service to a wider range of customers. “It is very helpful because a lot of our customers come from across the border,” said Alfonso Ruiz, store manager of the Imperial Valley College bookstore.

Skaters and citizens await new skate park in Holtville

HOLTVILLE, Calif.–Even kids here admit they need a place to keep themselves out of trouble. “We could use a skate park because then,” said 13-year-old skater, Rafael Ledesma, “we wouldn’t be getting ourselves into so much trouble.” Skaters in Holtville are frequently told not to skate on sidewalks and near businesses, and usually find themselves in situations where they are not able to skate anywhere in the small farming community of about 6,000. “They chase us, calling is crazy,” said Ledesma. But, the City of Holtville is trying to find the means and the location for a skate park within the next year to provide a place where they’re not causing problems for pedestrians and motorists.

Imperial Valley students demonstrate sign language is not just for the deaf

IMPERIAL, Calif.–When Nathan Enriquez first met his girlfriend Jocelyn Mirola two years ago, they didn’t know how to speak to each other. Not in the way that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but they truly couldn’t communicate. “I liked Jocelyn and was interested in the way she communicated with others,” said Enriquez, a second-year student at Imperial Valley College. “But in order to get to know her I had to learn sign language.”

Mirola, 19, became deaf following a serious fever when she was 2 years old. Life was difficult, but Jocelyn persevered and is studying to become a counselor and make-up artist.

Teen authors of the California border pave their way through self-publishing

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.–Teenagers all over the world are anticipating the June 30 movie release of “Eclipse,” the third installment in the phenomenal “Twilight” saga, to see how the romantic fantasy about a teenage girl and her intense love affair with a vampire continues to play out. The “Twilight” books, written by Stephanie Meyer, inspired the movie series and a cult following of both readers and movie-goers around the globe.  But during the last decade, that inspiration was not limited to just reading or watching the mythical and unorthodox teen romance stories; inspiration bled over into the minds of young writers, including those in the Imperial Valley. Often seen as culturally dry as the desert it occupies, the Imperial Valley is home to several young authors who have crafted their own fantasies in the pages of books that are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, at the local bookstore, and can be found in local libraries.  These youthful writers have not experienced the notoriety of Meyer – at least not yet. Angela Ly, 16, is writing her second novel.  “The book is going to be about a different dimension, but in this world,” Ly said.  “There will be action and adventure, somewhat like Twilight.”  The Brawley High School junior self-published her first book, “Birds to Fly Me to You” in 2009. Fantasy adventures like “The Way to Fairyleland” and “The Collusion Series” have sprung from the minds of local teen authors prolifically in recent years.  Publishing house Wandering Sage Books recently released a commemorative edition of “The Way to Fairyleland,” by Belén Ramos, and a third young writer, Alexandra Lopez, is penning her third and fourth books.

Slab City artists play their music free and easy

NILAND, Calif.–In a small secluded area on the outskirts of this desert town, a mish-mash of trailers and tents surround a big stage that unites the people of Slab City in a very unique way and brings their musical talents to life every Saturday night. Slab City is a tiny “town” where there are no bills to pay, no running water or electricity, and when nature calls, you choose your bush.  And yet there are about 50 people who live here year round, even in the harsh summer months when temperatures can reach 118 degrees and “residents” spend a lot of time cooling off in nearby irrigation canals. “Most of the people who live out here in Slab City have lost their home, money, and family, so they have nowhere else to go,” said Sean Paul, a U.S. Army combat veteran. “I can eat out of a can. I am used to this, but a suburban American might find living here a challenge.”

Paul said he arrived in Slab City about 13 years ago and he chose to stay because life at the Slabs is free.

Instruments create beautiful music—but who creates the instruments? David Armenta, for one

EL CENTRO, Calif.–When David Armenta was all of 15 years old, with little cash in his wallet and a lot of musical spirit in his heart, he wanted a “super cool” guitar that he could not afford. But, instead of running to the local music store to put his dream guitar on layaway, Armenta did something different–he decided he would rather make his own guitar. “I taught myself (to make guitars),” said Armenta, now 23 years old and a communications major at Imperial Valley College in Imperial, Calif. His first investment was a set of carpentry tools he got for the bargain price of $20 at an auction. “You don’t need a lot of tools to make a guitar,” Armenta said, pointing to his head.

Welders and fabricators move beyond industrial work and into art

EL CENTRO, Calif.–From a typical viewpoint, it’s hard to see the field of welding and fabrication as an art,  because the conventional idea focuses on the production of industrial parts. “Most people see it as an industry, and it is,” says Scott Baker, a welder and fabrication foreman for EW Corp. in El Centro.  “Even for me it’s hard to see it as a craft sometimes.”

The industrial side of the welding and fabrication business has long overshadowed any notion of welding as an art. When a typical bystander walks into a fab shop, there isn’t much in the way of traditional art—drab pieces of metal, drills, and complicated machinery take up most of the space.  Those in the fabrication world are usually not the type that are into the arts.  In fact,  West Coast Choppers CEO Jesse James, one of welding’s most famous faces, is known as a tough-talking bad boy. But the guys wielding those fiery torches on sheet metal

at shipyards and auto body shops are not just a bunch of gearheads–they are artists with a passion and creativity as ancient as metal working itself.

Imperial Valley College: 50 Years in the Making

IMPERIAL, Calif. — Slowly, IVC has taken shape as an educational hub for the Imperial Valley. Fifty years ago, IVC was built with the intention of bringing all of the valley’s higher educational needs to one central location. From there, it’s slowly grown and expanded into the farmland around it, and unlike the youth of 50 years ago, the younger generations now have a much larger local stepping stone to help them into the rest of their lives. However, there seems to be a mixture of emotions among students on campus.

The Desert of Inspiration

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Education in 2003 called the Imperial Valley the most illiterate county in California. Despite that bad rap, however, this desert valley next to Mexico is home to an artistically literate community of young and old poets who say this area gives them uniquely positive and negative inspirations. “The negative is that the valley is boring, isolated and full of mean people,” said Mark Garcia, 42, a poet from Calexico, “while the positive is that it’s peaceful, slow-paced, and there are some nice people as well.  This is what I call my desert of inspiration.”

Poet Sandra Hernandez, 38, of Calexico writes, “I had precious moments, I had terrible heart breaks, I had arrogance thrown at me… In this deserted paradise I call my home”. The valley people, rather than the vast, lonely desert inspire local poets.