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Opinion L.A. Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
Could the anti-immigrant loudmouths pass a U.S. citizenship test?

To listen to talk radio and cable television, which are dominated by conservatives, the national and state debates over immigration give the impression that most legal residents of the state of California oppose immigrant workers here illegally and might even be favorably disposed to Mitt Romney's suggestion that they "self-deport."

It's not a crazy assumption. After all, state voters in 1994 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 187 – which prohibited people here illegally from using such public services as schools and healthcare.

As it turns out, however, the voices of anti-immigration forces are disproportionately louder than their actual numbers.

A new poll of likely California voters shows that a whopping 73% support granting citizenship to immigrants here illegally if they agreed to pay back taxes, pass a background check and learn the English language.

Support for legalizing the status of people currently living in the shadows is not only majoritarian, but broad. "Even 61% of...

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Justice Clarence Thomas dissents from a voting rights 'victory' in Alabama

Civil rights groups cheered a decision this week in which the Supreme Court revived a lawsuit by the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus challenging the apportionment of the two houses of the Alabama Legislature.

The Black Caucus argued that the Republican-controlled Legislature “packed” more black voters into some districts than was necessary to ensure that African Americans in those areas had an opportunity to “elect the candidate of their choice." As a result, there were fewer black voters in other districts, a state of affairs that improved the prospects of Republican candidates in those districts.

The Legislature’s defense was that it wanted to maintain pre-exiting black majorities in some districts lest they be accused of perpetrating a “retrogression” of black political influence.

Writing for a five-justice majority, Justice Stephen Breyer rejected that argument. He said that a lower court should take another look at the case to see if the 2012 redistricting plan involved any...

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Raise the minimum wage, but don't forget about the cost of housing

One of the best reasons to raise L.A.’s minimum wage is the region’s incredibly high cost of housing. Metropolitan Los Angeles is ranked the least affordable rental market in the nation because the city has a dual problem -- low incomes and high costs.

A worker would have to earn $33 an hour to afford the average apartment, KPCC reported this year. The state minimum wage of $9 an hour doesn’t have the same buying power in Los Angeles that it does in Bakersfield or Humboldt. So it makes sense to set a higher minimum wage in a pricey urban area.

But, what if the minimum wage increase prompts landlords to jack up the price of rent?

During the City Council’s minimum wage hearings last week, economist Christopher Thornberg warned that’s what could happen. L.A. housing prices are so high because the city -- and the region, really -- has failed to build enough homes to match population growth over the last two decades. Raising wages without building more housing just increases demand without...

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They're Palestinians, not 'Israeli Arabs'

Can you imagine reading an editorial in a respected newspaper today discussing the rights of "Negroes" or "Chinamen"? Probably not. And yet, like other newspapers in this country, The Times continues to use the generic term "Arabs" or "Israeli Arabs" to refer to the Palestinians who live inside Israel, falsely distinguishing them from the Palestinians who live in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 or those who were driven into exile during the destruction of Palestine in 1948. 

The term is, at best, an archaism from the mid-20th century that Palestinians themselves resist using. Using it is akin to using "Negroes" or "Coloreds" instead of "African Americans" or calling Asians "Orientals." In general, the term that an ethnic or national group uses to designate itself is surely preferable to the terms that its antagonists have historically used to designate it.

But what's at stake here is not merely rhetoric but a form of historical distortion that makes it all but impossible for...

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Cuba trip a way for lobbyists to say 'I love you' to state legislators

It doesn’t really matter what you call the trip to Cuba that California Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins and a passel of legislators and staff are planning for next week. Trade mission or junket or learning expedition, it all equals the same thing: a chance for lobbyists to spend a little quality time with, and money on, the state’s lawmakers.

Next week is spring recess for the state Legislature, and that historically means some legislators heading off to an exotic locale.

This year, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is leading his own international trip. He will go to Tokyo with Senate minority leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), and one staffer from the Office of International Relations. There is no sponsoring organization, according to De Leon spokesman Anthony Reyes.

The nonprofit "partnering" on Atkins’ trip, Californians Building Bridges, has close ties to one of Sacramento’s most active lobbying firms, Platinum Advisors. Platinum's...

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California bill aims to curb police adoption of military surplus

One of the surprising details that came to light during the recent debate over local police agencies outfitting themselves with surplus military equipment was the remarkable level of freedom police departments enjoyed in requesting weapons, armored personnel carriers, aircraft and other items. In many places, it was done without local public debate over whether communities wanted their police to be that heavily armed. That is changing at the federal level, and is the subject of a bill working its way through the California Legislature in Sacramento.

Some of the stuff local agencies requested and received created a bizarre mismatch of mission and materiel, such as grenade launchers for the Los Angeles Unified School District police, and Saddleback College’s $733,000 mine-resistant armored vehicle (an intimidating parking enforcement vehicle, that).

The American Civil Liberties Union last year sharply condemned the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, as it is called, as an unnecessary...

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