The Immigration Issue


More than a year ago we at Los Angeles magazine decided to tackle the topic of immigration (we plan ahead). Then something unexpected happened: A real estate developer-reality show star turned immigration into the defining issue of this election. With Los Angeles the epicenter of a debate that now stretches around the globe, the timing was perfect to shake up the magazine that readers have come to know. We devoted every page of the October 2016 print issue to immigration in L.A. In the stories below, we discuss what the city would be like without the contribution of immigrants. We also outline the immigrant experience from start to finish, offer insights into the effect immigrants have had on California’s politics and economy, and invite writers who landed here from around the world to show us Los Angeles through their eyes. — Mary Melton, Editor-in-Chief, Los Angeles


I. Getting Here


Photograph by Damon Casarez

The Path to Citizenship
A primer on how it works, how long it takes, and why; the other ways people make it into the country—plus what happens when they are caught


II. Changing the Map


Photograph by Damon Casarez

Neighborhood Watch
Eat, shop, and explore Koreatown, Historic Flipinotown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Little IndiaSawtelle Japantown & Little Tokyo, Tehrangeles, Thai communities, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, El Salvador, the Chinese community in the San Gabriel Valley, foodie outposts of eight Mexican states, and festivals from all around the world.

Why I’m Here
An Ethiopian chef takes diners on a journey to her homeland; an Armenian bookstore owner preserves a cultural center; a Japanese nursery proprietor holds on to a legacy; a Mexico-born activist works to better her neighborhood (and her neighbors); an LGBT man escapes the brutality of Cameroon; a Chinese designer rebels—and prospers; an Australian lawyer opens up as a gay man; a student from the United Arab Emirates will employ her education at home.


III. Making History


Photograph by Damon Casarez

How Waves of Latino Immigration Turned a Purple State Blue
By Harold Meyerson

The Irresistible Draw of Assimilation
By Alex Espinoza


IV. Shaping the Culture


Photograph by Damon Casarez

What Defines a Successful Immigrant?
By Jennifer Lee

Crafting a New California Cuisine 
By Patric Kuh

Round Peg in a Persian Square
By Porochista Khakpour

The World According to Denim
By Linda Immediato


V. The Melting Pot


Photography by Damon Casarez

Hungry Metropolis
Downtown’s Grand Central Market, a microcosm of international L.A., is in flux. A view from behind the counter at Wexler’s Deli
By Jesse Katz

Finding a Home and a Muse in L.A.
By Marielle Wakim


VI. Building Walls


Photograph by Damon Casarez

A World Without Muslims
By Ani Zonneveld

Latino. Pro-Trump. Discuss.
By Ed Leibowitz


VII. Taking the Long View


Photograph by Damon Casarez

The Other Asians
Searching for signs of Vietnamese life
By Viet Thanh Nguyen

A Lens on the American Character
The onscreen stories of immigrants
By Steve Erickson

Big Stories in Little China
Running a Chinese newspaper in the SGV
By Fiona Ng


VIII. Strength in Numbers

Guest edited by Jose Antonio Vargas


Photograph by Damon Casarez

Out from the Shadows
What it’s like to “come out” as an undocumented immigrant
By Jose Antonio Vargas

Say It Loud: We’re Here and We’re Proud
A portrait gallery

Making Ends Meet
The economy of a mixed-status family
By Yosimar Reyes and Shauna Siggelkow

Answer Me This
7 questions that undocumented immigrants hear every day
By Lara Drasin

It’s Our Business
By Chris Nichols


IX. Saying Goodbye


Photograph by Damon Casarez

Neither Here Nor There
The plight of deportees who have roots in the U.S.
By Sam Quinones


X. New Arrivals

Karly was born June 4, 2:48 a.m. at California Hospital Medical Center in Downtown.
Karly was born June 4, 2:48 a.m., at California Hospital Medical Center in Downtown.

Photograph by Damon Casarez

Meet Karly Fabíana Estrada Réinoza
She’s the first in her family to be born in America


• • •

The photographs in this issue were taken by one person, Damon Casarez. A former intern at the magazine, Casarez’s images have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and Fast Company, among other publications. For this issue, he worked 22 days straight, driving more than 3,000 miles to snap 1,800-plus photos around L.A. County and beyond. We settled on 61. “I’ll definitely carry this experience with me,” says Casarez, a 28-year-old fourth-generation Mexican American who grew up in Diamond Bar. “Talking to some undocumented guys who were around my age, I realized how different our lives were. One was working construction with his father to pay for his college education, which was not my case. I’m grateful to those who came before me and laid a foundation for me to build on.”