Tag Archives: Texas

Juan’s Story – The high cost of cheap prices

We came upon this taxi driver who started telling us of how, in order to build his family a house, he went to Texas to cut rock for housing facades, using a legal visa provided by his employer. Did this for three years, six days a week, 12 hours a day minimum.

Hope you like this video, which I did last week in Mexico.

Let me know what you think, either here on in the Youtube comment box. Please share it if you like it.

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Filed under Border, Business, Global Economy, Mexico, Migrants

Unaccompanied minors: How about some perspective

The Dept of Homeland Security today announced figures for youths apprehended alone at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The headline: The numbers of detained unaccompanied children dropped in half, to 5,500 in July.20140508_192715

Also fascinating in the DHS report: The monthly apprehension numbers show a huge leap in March and April, up to 7,000+ and reaching 10,000+ in each of May and June.

So most of those 57,000 kids that were reported detained since October actually came since March.

The suddenness of that surge reflected in the DHS figures adds credence to the idea that this was the result of rumors – spread by a Honduran television reporter, according a US official I spoke with – that the time to leave was now or never given pending legal changes in the U.S. So people began bolting.

But it’s remarkable that the situation on the ground – both harrowing violence and civic disintegration in Central America, dependence on jobs in the U.S., and the huge numbers of immigrants here — is such that rumors would spark a migration fever like that.

I find the whole furor to be surreal in another way. The surge in apprehended minors is really a sign of how well the immigration system is working. Certainly, total apprehensions, which are barometers of the the size of the flow of people trying to cross, are well down these days.

Years ago, when total apprehensions were always over a million annually, thousands of kids — most of them teenagers between 13 and 17 – came to the United States illegally and many of them were alone. But they were lost in the hundreds of thousands of adults who were also crossing.

But with those numbers down (well below 500,000 a year), the kids stand out more. It’s possible too that coyotes are seeing these kids as their last, or maybe a far more important, revenue stream and spreading rumors too. Desperate measures, perhaps reflecting a serious crisis among our friends in the human-smuggling industry.

Not to say that it’s a good thing that thousands of kids are streaming north, but it helps to keep some perspective.

Here are the DHS apprehension figures since January, 2014:

Unaccompanied children Adults with children
January 3,706 2,286
February 4,846 3,282
March 7,176 5,754
April 7,702 6,511
May 10,579 12,774
June 10,628 16,330
July 5,508 7,410

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Filed under Border, Global Economy, Mexico, Migrants

Ernie Johnson, legendary coach dies

A great teacher will leave behind a raft of students doing well.

Ernie JohnsonThat’s how I first heard of Ernie Johnson.

As I moved back to Southern California and began writing about the area, I ran into his students, now well on in life and doing very well. The name came up a few times.

Johnson was a legendary football coach, producing dominant teams at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera and later at Cerritos College.

He was one of the first coaches to meld white and Hispanic players into football dynasties — a rare thing back then.

Johnson died last month at the age of 87.

He was one of those Marine-style football coaches, who took kids by the face mask to make a point.

The first to tell me of Johnson was Ruben Quintero, who played offensive tackle on the great El Rancho teams in the mid-1960s. Quintero is a professor of literature at Cal State, Los Angeles.

(I met Quintero while doing a story in 2007 on the murder of his sister, Maria Hicks, who had accosted some taggers writing on a wall and who fired upon her when she approached.)

In the mid-1960s, El Rancho High School had just been formed from parts of two school districts, after Whittier wanted to rid itself of a chunk of its district that had a lot of Mexican-Americans. On one side of the new district lived working-class Mexican-American; on the other, middle-class whites.

Johnson forged them into a statewide football force. El Rancho crushed its opponents during these years. It was chosen the nation’s best football team one year.

“He had a very successful football program at same time that the city was working to unify north and south parts into one program,” Quintero told me. “We were all part of something that in many ways representative of what Pico Rivera was, a kind of mixed community that was doing something very, very successfully. We were a public school that beat all these Catholic schools that could recruit from all over the place.

“He crystallized in the successful football program something that was larger in the community.”

Johnson didn’t allow dancing celebrations or steroids or trash talking. But the El Rancho squad was so dominant that the players would go three quarters, take no water, never take off their helmets and begin doing jumping jacks as the the fourth quarter started to cow their opponents. That’s what Quintero told me.

A couple years later, I met Ernie Vargas, the recreation director for the city of Hawaiian Gardens, on a story I was doing about his use of rugby as way of guiding kids away from gangs. Vargas played for Johnson at Cerritos College.

Vargas lacked football talent, but had a desire to play that impressed Johnson.

“In the neighborhood, a lot of kids didn’t have discipline,” said Vargas. “Not only was I being coached, but I was also being mentored to be a better man. These were the principles I live by today. I don’t need to steal. I don’t need to lie. Be true to myself. Coach wanted us to be true to ourselves. I was just in awe of what he had to say.

“He said: Be where you’re supposed to be. Be on time. And do your best. Those three principles are all you need for life.”

(YOUR OWN MEMORIES OF ERNIE JOHNSON? Please add them to Comments below.)

I later interviewed Johnson, the son of Texas cotton pickers who had came to Orange County to pick citrus, by phone. Here are a few things he said:

–“It’s like playing human chess, football is.”

-“El Rancho High School was built to cleanse Whittier High School of Mexicans. We got every gang – Jimtown, Canta Rana from Los Nietos. What they didn’t understand was that they also got rid of a lot of great players and all the good-looking girls.”

-“I was raised in a Mexican neighborhood in Fullerton. They called me Gringo Uno. I learned more in the neighborhood67-00-00_El_Rancho_Johnson Crop that eventually helped me because they couldn’t tell me about being poor. Having been raised where I was, I was a minority for a long time myself. The people in Fullerton honestly thought that I was an albino because they never saw me with anyone but Kiko Munoz and Eddie Montoya.

-“At a reunion not long ago, two guys came up and said., `You don’t know who we are. I’m Naranjo from Jimtown. The other was Ray Chavez from the Montebello Jardines. I had them both in continuation PE. I would tell them,`You change your ways or you’re going to die in the gas chamber.’  They said, `We came here to tell you we did not die in the gas chamber.'”

-“One night we beat Whittier, the team all knelt and prayed. We always sprayed before the game but never prayed to win. We prayed that nobody got hurt, and have the privilege of playing. Then we get a complaint from Whittier about us praying on the field. I said I didn’t tell them to get down and pray and I’m not going to tell them to get up. Then they saw what miserable little people they were.”

And my favorite:

-“If there’s one secret to being a coach, it’d be to show you love your players more than you love the game.”

Two memorials for Ernie Johnson are planned.

One is a tribute at halftime of El Rancho High School’s football game on Friday night, November 1.

The next is a memorial service Sunday, November 3, 1 p.m. at the high school, 6501 Passons Blvd., in Pico Rivera.

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Filed under California, Los Angeles, Southern California