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Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:05 AM

A Ground-Eye View of the 'Valley of Deportation'


COACHELLA -- With 2012 now firmly in the rearview mirror, and on the eve of President Obama's unveiling of his national vision for immigration reform, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the official number of people deported from the United States last year: 409,849 individuals "removed" -- caught, trapped, nabbed, thrown into the paddy wagon and kicked out with a boot – a record high.

For residents of California’s Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV), the number comes as no surprise. In fact, it’s what makes the ECV so unique – the normalization of, and the desensitization to, deportations. Think about the word. Deported. It’s a horrible word and a horrible experience. While the Coachella Valley may conjure up fuzzy thoughts of a crazy concert or country clubs with golf courses and swimming pools, the Coachella Valley that I know is the Coachella Valley of Deportation.

Following are stories of everyday people living in the ECV who I am lucky to know and whose lives have been impacted in some form by deportation and our nation’s immigration policies.

Mario Lazcano: Witness to the Scars of a Community

When it comes to learning about immigration issues in the Eastern Coachella Valley, there is one person to see first: Mario Lazcano. Most know him as the guy who runs El Comité Latino (an activist organization) and who works out of his cramped home, helping people with their immigration issues for practically nothing. Lazcano believes the high number of deportations in the ECV is a result of immigration authorities taking advantage of the fact that there is no solid leadership, no one organization or politician, to defend the people.

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