IDEAS Aid Undocumented Students

Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) presented a workshop in January explaining the effects of the University of California’s 32% fee hike on undocumented students. High school students and other campus organizations as well as students from San Fernando Valley attended, uniting in an effort to help undocumented students pay tuition, attend college, and graduate with the possibility of continuing their education.

In the United States, there are 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year, including the 25,000 who graduate in California. However, only 5 to 10 percent reach higher education and even fewer graduate. Because many of undocumented students face poverty, these fee increases may continue to lower their graduation rate.

Undocumented students are penned as out-of-state students, thus they have to pay a higher tuition. Fortunately, the AB 540 law in California allows students who have lived here since their youth or who have attended a California high school for at least three years to pay in-state tuition.

Testimonials by undocumented students highlighted the financial difficulties they have had to overcome to attend UCLA, and unfortunately, these do not end once accepted to the university. To pay for tuition, everyday necessities are constant challenges for these students. One student said, “You won’t eat so you can buy a book,” while another comments that these sacrifices are “what it takes to get that money.” Hardships become heavier when fees are raised for the UC system, forcing these students to attend college part-time, and perhaps eventually dropping out altogether. A third student describes how these difficulties affect a parent’s mentality; though at first “the person who pushed me [was the one who] saw the obstacles,” it is more and more apparent that the financial burden may be too much.

In order to address this issue of access, IDEAS is pushing for institutional aid to be made available to undocumented students. Students pay fees that comprise institutional aid, but because they are undocumented, they are shut out from receiving it. IDEAS is also fundraising to pay fee for undocumented students. You can contribute by visiting their website at

Mexican Americans Most Active in U.S.

By: HealthDay New/ New America Media

Mexican Americans are the most likely to meet national health goals for physical activity, according to a new study that challenges previous research that found that whites tended to be the most physically active.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Arizona State University analyzed data collected from 10,000 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Each of the participants wore an electronic device that recorded their activity levels.

Nearly 27 percent of Mexican Americans achieved a national goal of getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week, or vigorous activity for 20 minutes at least three days a week. The exercise goal was met by 20 percent of whites and 15 percent of blacks.

The findings were published online Feb. 11 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Previous studies based on participants’ self-reports found that this physical activity target was achieved by 36 percent of whites and 25 percent of blacks and Mexican Americans.

“Those self-reported findings attributing higher activity levels in non-Hispanic whites show that people are likely to have difficulty estimating their activity levels,” study author Sandra Ham, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, said in a news release. “Surveys obtain information that is easy to report — how much time people block out of their daily schedules for physical activity — and that often includes warm-up and rest periods, whereas the monitors measured the actual time being active.”

Ham noted that many Mexican Americans and other Hispanics may not report all their physical activity on surveys because they often have manual labor jobs and most surveys don’t ask about physical activity at work. In addition, they may walk and use public transit more often than other groups because they have a low rate of car ownership.

“The underreporting is so remarkable that by understanding it, we can change how we think about disparities across racial and ethnic groups and among people with different education and economic backgrounds,” Ham said.

She added that the finding “may help explain the Hispanic paradox — the puzzling findings of many studies that show Hispanics enjoy better health outcomes than other U.S. adults with the same low socioeconomic status.”

Ham’s report is based on research conducted while she was working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Uranium in the Mix: Friction between the U.S. and Iran

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has indicated his country may be ready to ship uranium abroad for enrichment, an action in line with a U.N.-backed proposal. Why now? The offer has been on the table since October of last year, but it seemed the leaders of Iran would never agree. For months, Iranian officials have criticized the plan proposed by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany last year advising Iran to send out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to be processed and returned as nuclear fuel to power its reactor. However, conservatives in Iran were bitterly disappointed with the president bid to quickly make concession to the West.

In an interview with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, President Ahmadinejad said, “Iran has the technology at its disposal to produce uranium enriched to the level that could be used as fuel, and now that Iran possesses that technology there is no problem in sending the uranium outside…some people made a fuss about it. There is no problem. We will seal a contract and we will give you 3.5 percent uranium to enrich it to 20 per ent levels in four or five months and return to us.”

This announcement comes a day after Iran opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi stated that he will continue his struggle against the government. At the Eve of the Republics 31st anniversary, one of the most important dates in Iran’s political calendar, Mousavi and reformist ally Mehdi Karroubi called on their supporters to attend political rallies. Musavi publicly stated that “the green movement will not abandon its peaceful fight…until people’s rights are preserved. Peaceful protests are Iranians’ right.” Mousavi also said that the Islamic revolution in Iran had failed to eradicate the “roots of tyranny and dictatorship” that he believed marked the shah’s era. He said he no longer believed, as he once did, “that the revolution had removed all those structures which could lead to totalitarianism and dictatorship.”

President Ahmadinejad announced his government would be willing work with the U.N. as Mussavi continues to rattle the saber of the green movement. Iran has successfully launched a probe into space with two turtles, a hamster and a worm on board. The Islamic republic unveiled three new satellites on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The U.S. and other Western nations believe that Iran’s space program is only a mask to cover its true purpose: the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that would be capable of reaching the United States.

U.S. officials have said that they positioned Patriot batteries in four Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. U.S. anti-missile ships are also being stationed in the Gulf. However, Iran has criticized the U.S.’s move to expand the missile defense systems in the Gulf region.

The situation in the Middle East is very volatile already and the tension between Iran and the U.S. is only creating barriers for the rest of the region, drawing more lines in the sand.

El Robo: In Memory of My Mexican Mother

by Alvaro Huerta

Carmen Mejia was the prettiest girl in her rancho, Sajo Grande. Only 13 years old and the little girl with the sparkling, green eyes already had a boyfriend, an admirer and a stalker.

Mexico in the 1950s was not the safest place for unwed girls, especially in rural states like Michoacan, where men routinely abducted teenage girls with the aim of eventually marrying them. Once taken from her home for several nights, an abducted girl had no choice but to marry her abductor to protect her honor and family name.

Carmen rarely spoke to her boyfriend, Alfredo Ramirez. They only met a few times, under the close supervision of Carmen’s mother, who watched their every move from a distance. Carmen and Alfredo never went on a date, kissed or held hands. He was okay with their non-physical relationship since he felt honored that Carmen selected him over others who only dreamed of courting her.

Salomon Huerta also had his eyes on Carmen. Belonging to a large and respected family, this handsome young man could wed any girl that he desired. He had already set his eyes on Carmen and nobody could change his mind. It was only a matter of time when he would make his move.

Alcadio Perez was not so patient. What he lacked in good looks, he compensated with determination. It was no secret that he wanted to make Carmen his wife, at any cost.

While Alfredo played the role of the gentleman and Salomon the confident one, Alcadio behaved like a brute. He never sent Carmen flowers or love notes; he had a simpler plan. He would stalk Carmen until he found an opportunity to abduct her.

Once he crafted his master plan, Alcadio and his hired thugs stationed themselves inside the cornfields, adjacent to Carmen’s home. After hiding for days with only uncooked corn to eat and mescal to drink, Alcadio and his posse made their move.

“The old man left the house for the day,” Alcadio whispered to his accomplices.

“Let’s wait for her to go outside,” one of the thugs responded.

“Sounds good to me,” stated the other one.

A few hours later, Carmen ventured outside her adobe home with an empty bucket to get water from her neighbor Margarita.

“There she is,” Alcadio whispered to the others. “I don’t see the old lady. She must be cooking inside.”

Oblivious of the pursuing stalkers, Carmen skipped her way to Margarita’s house.

Suddenly, Alcadio ran towards Carmen with the others following right behind him.

“Let me go!” Carmen screamed at the top of her lungs, while Alcadio and his men grabbed her by the arms and legs.

“Shut up!” Alcadio responded. “Your father’s not here to protect you.”

“Somebody help!” Carmen yelled to her neighbors, who began to gather in a semi-circle to witness all of the commotion.

“Let her go, Alcadio,” a young woman said from the crowd.

“Yeah,” stated an older woman. “You can’t take her. She doesn’t belong to you.”

“I’m going to tell your mother that you’re involved,” Carmen’s best friend, Rosa, told one of the thugs, who also happened to be her second cousin.

Fearful of the growing crowd, the hired thugs fled the scene.

“Don’t go,” Alcadio pleaded with them to stay and help. “I’ll throw in an extra 100 pesos.”

Carmen broke free and headed directly for her house.

Not willing to give up just yet, Alcadio grabbed Carmen from her long, braided hair, forcing her to the ground before she could reach the door of her house. Carmen desperately reached for a rock and without looking, hit Alcadio on his forehead, causing him to bleed profusely.

Freed again from his grip, Carmen made her way home. Blinded by the blood, Alcadio couldn’t catch up to Carmen.

Alcadio then reached for his silver revolver.

“If I can’t have you, nobody can,” Alcadio yelled, while aimlessly shooting his gun in her direction.

Carmen miraculously reached her home without a scratch.

Alcadio quickly fled the scene before the local militia arrived. As he retreated to the hills, Alcadio held a lock of Carmen’s long hair in his hand, which brought a smile to his otherwise bloody face.

Once Salomon learned of the incident, he wasted no time in asking Carmen to be his girlfriend, especially since Alfredo, who left to el norte for work, couldn’t protect her from Alcadio and others like him.

Seeking justice, Salomon sought help from his father Martin. As the commander of the local militia, Martin had the authority to arrest Alcadio and his men.

Witnesses told Martin that Alcadio headed north, yet the militia commander decided to head south in pursuit of Alcadio. Carmen later learned that Martin, her future father-in-law, had no intention of capturing Alcadio, since the brute’s father, just happened to be Martin’s first cousin.

Salomon realized that Alcadio paid off his neighbor, Raul, to distract Salomon while Alcadio executed his foiled master plan.

“How could you betray me?” asked Salomon, while pistol-whipping Raul.

“That’s enough!” said Martin, ordering his son to stop.

“Okay,” responded Salomon. “Now, let’s get that bastard, Alcadio.”

“Don’t worry about Alcadio,” said Martin. “He failed. He won’t be coming around the rancho anymore, now that you and Carmen are together.”

Fortunately for my seven siblings and I, my mother, Carmen Mejia, eventually married my father, Salomon Huerta.

Throughout her life in Mexico and the United States, my mother overcame tremendous obstacles to make sure that her children had a better life.

Now, if only she could live one more day so she can tell us, once again, her favorite story of how she prevailed against her would-be abductor in the rancho.

Mixed Review for L.A. Gang Tours

Mixed Review for L.A. Gang Tours

Final Call, News Report, Charlene Muhammad, Posted: Feb 01, 2010

LOS ANGELES ( – Former gang-members have teamed up with a non-profit outreach organization to offer a look at the inner city by conducting gang tours in South Central Los Angeles.

L.A. Gang Tours are designed to raise awareness about the lifestyle of inner city gangs and address the urgent public safety issue presented by gang violence, according to creator Alfred Lomas. The tour costs $65 (down from $100) per adult to get on the bus. Creators of the tours say they want to use the money to create jobs and investment opportunities for micro-lending in some neighborhoods.

The tour has already created 10 jobs and organizers say their immediate strategy is to hire youth from four gangs participating in a cease fire that allows the tours. The groups agreed to no shootings or retaliation shootings between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. when the busses pass through, said tour organizers.

“Public safety is paramount because without freedom from violence, no other freedoms can exist. … We’ve taken rival kids that would never have an opportunity to see each other outside of probably jail or a gang shooting and this is balanced out with two Hispanics, two Blacks and so on, and so forth,” project coordinator Lomas told The Final Call.

Tour guides Lomas and Fred “Scorpio” Smith gave a brief history of the origination of some of L.A.’s gangs, including the Crips, Bloods and Florencia 13, during a recent tour for reporters. They also highlighted their personal experiences with gangs, and how they entered into intervention and prevention.

Mr. Lomas pointed out historical sites in Los Angeles, as well as notable government facilities. The bus cruised the outskirts of the L.A. River Bed, which was heavily graffiti-tagged, the L.A. County Jail, Olvera Street (considered the birthplace of Los Angeles, Chinatown, Skid Row (which has the largest concentration of homeless population in the U.S.), the Metropolitan Detention Center, several housing projects, and Florence & Normandie, the flash-point intersection of the 1992 rebellion after the acquittal of officers involved in beating motorist Rodney King.

Before stops at the New Life Church of God in Christ and the Pico Union Graffiti Lab, Mr. Lomas explained the different types of graffiti tags and offered a partial viewing of the documentary “Crips and Bloods: Made in America.”

The media route was mostly industrial explained Mr. Lomas, saying tour organizers wanted to maintain the dignity of the residents. The tour has been criticized by those who feel it will negatively display Black and Brown youth and their communities like animals in a zoo.

“It’s going to be nothing like that,” said Mr. Smith, a gang intervention worker in the Jordan Downs Housing area in Watts. “A lot of people have a different view about Watts, South Central, Echo Park, that if you go over there, they are just animals, but we will show it’s nothing like that.”

Rather, he said, tour guides will show the Watts Towers, where the Black Panther Party started, and where the Crips and Bloods street gangs started. During tours people will not be allowed to exit busses at all and no cameras or video/audio recorders will be allowed, according to Mr. Lomas.

According to Kim McGill, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, an advocacy group for incarcerated youth and their families, some youth expressed concerns that these poor communities will serve as field trips for researchers, suburbanites, and Whites. They argue the tours should provide an understanding of urban complexities and a critical analysis of racism.

“Also, it leads to a lot of exaggerations of communities so that you kind of glorify or beef up people’s already preconceived notions about how violent communities are and how everyone’s kind of gangster. As opposed to a situation where you’re really holding wealthier communities accountable for the fact that conditions exist because wealth is not shared, because resources are not equal, because there’s racism in the system, etc.,” Ms. McGill told The Final Call.

Vicky Lindsey, founder of Project Cry No More, a support group for mothers and families who have lost loved ones to gang violence, believes the project is an opportunity for employment and exploitation. Such tours should bring youth contemplating joining gangs up close and personal with the pain involved in the activity, like crying mothers and rehabilitation centers for gunshot victims, said Ms. Lindsay.

“Are they going to go into actual war zones … or gang funerals where family members and people are hurting? In which way is this tour going to impact a youth to say, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to follow gang violence?’” she asked.

“Anything that will help our young people get out of a negative situation is always good, however, on the streets of L.A., you must have a license to operate (LTO) …without the LTO it will be hard to have a successful gang tour. But if the tour creates some form of economics for the hoods that the tour will impact, this is a good thing,” said Ansar Stan Muhammad, co-founder of the gang intervention and prevention Venice 2000/H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation.


Word of the Week:ozomahtli

Pronounciation:IPA: /osomaʔtɬi/

Language: Nahuatl

English Translation: monkey

You may have heard of Ozomatli, the alternative/Latin band whose hits include “Cut Chemist Suite” or “Saturday Night,” but did you know their name derives from the Nahuatl word for monkey? Ozomahtli is the 11th daysign of the Aztec Borgia Codex, a manuscript that served as a 260 ritual calendar of sorts as well as used by religious figures made of beautiful painted animal skins. The monkey represents art, music and harmony – a perfect fit for the musical band.

The Value of Education: Crisis in the Budget

José races down the courtyard between Royce Hall and Powell Library as he hurries to meet me. As he runs, all he can think is that in two days he will be taking his first midterm at UCLA. The quarter has been bittersweet for the AB 540 freshman. Although attending his dream school, he finds himself in a world of financial insecurity.

Like thousands across California, he knows that the UC Regents meeting on Nov. 18-19 will impact his future. If the Regents raise fees yet again, this time by 32%, his dream of becoming a doctor will prove more difficult.

Both UC President Mark Yudof and Chancellor Block stated that the decline in state funds is a major factor in fee increases. “The State has become an unreliable partner through chronic underinvestment,” said Yudof in an October letter to students and parents.

José grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. “My mom worked three jobs and still wasn’t making enough…she came to the U.S. to work.” Economic problems pushed José’s family to move often. To escape gang violence in his low-income neighborhood, José worked any job he could and opted to pursue a higher education. “I always tried to make the best of it and seek the resources. Whatever I could do,” José said.

Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) president, Cinthia Flores, is committed to raising awareness about the issue. “We have been organizing an educational campaign in partnership with the External Vice President’s office,” she said in an interview with La Gente. Partnering with Block, USAC reinstated Night Powell, a 24-hour library service.

2009 has been a year of unemployment in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama gave billions to financial goliaths such as AIG instead of the ailing American people. California’s Governator chose to close the state’s massive budget deficit by slashing $637 million from education, according to Yudof.

Californians have come to terms with the grim economic reality. But let us reflect for a moment; a democratic society should provide its members quality education as an unalienable right rather than a privilege.

What is democracy, but an institution founded “for the people and by the people”? The future of any democratic society depends on the quality of education by which individuals can develop an appreciation of the democratic principles that make America so great and actively engage with the promises of democracy. While we question how the proposed fee increases and cuts in services affect UCLA’s 34,000 students, we must question the California’s values as it continues to undermine and marginalize quality over costs.

José doesn’t have the luxury of contemplating the principles of democracy. He has to take his midterm while crunching numbers to figure out how he can afford another quarter. “Honestly this is all new to me, I am the first in my family to go to college. It’s a privilege, but I am sometimes frightened because I don’t know exactly what to do, having that feeling of constant uncertainty and financial insecurity,” José said.