Newsletter: Essential California: Drama at America’s doorstep

Orfa Marin, 33, and Plutarco Vasquez, 29, both of Honduras, wait for an appointment to apply for asylum near the El Chaparral Port of Entry in Tijuana.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 3, and here’s what’s happening across California:


When hundreds of Central American immigrants departed Tapachula, Mexico, they never imagined that their voyage would ricochet around the world. They moved north on buses, trains and on foot with limited access to news. Many had only a vague sense that they had gotten caught in a political fight stirred by a steady stream of President Donald Trump’s tweets. On America’s doorstep, their circumstances grew ever more surreal. Los Angeles Times

The fight begins


The defense attorney for Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. is trying to stop investigators from obtaining more DNA samples and photographing his body, including his genitals, according to motions filed this week in Sacramento County. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Cold-case investigators are reanalyzing unsolved homicides with the Golden State Killer suspect in mind. Los Angeles Times


For decades, government agencies have grappled over what to do about the New River, whose putrid green water runs like a primordial stew from Mexico’s sprawling city of Mexicali through California’s Imperial Valley. And while it is cleaner than it once was, it is still such a cesspool of pollution that Imperial Valley residents believe it will never be restored. Los Angeles Times


Get the Essential California newsletter »

Benjamin Ramirez, left, and his father Alex Ramirez serve food from their cart during a rally in Hollywood in July 2017.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times )


New job, new challenge: In his first news conference since being named to the post, Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner on Wednesday acknowledged his lack of experience in education, yet pledged to push cooperatively but unflinchingly to improve the district’s academic performance and stabilize its finances. Los Angeles Times

Scoop! The nationwide hunt for L.A.’s next police chief has narrowed to a handful of contenders who have deep ties to the Los Angeles Police Department, setting the stage for another insider to likely get the job. The Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, began conducting closed-door interviews Wednesday morning. Los Angeles Times

Airbnb life: The Los Angeles City Council unanimously backed a set of proposed rules Wednesday that would allow Angelenos to host night-to-night rentals only in their own homes but bar them from renting out a house or apartment for short stays if it is not their primary residence. Los Angeles Times

An appreciation: Power to the people who bring us street tacos and cheap T-shirts, writes columnist Gustavo Arellano. Los Angeles Times



Fascinating story: With California and the Trump administration locked in a legal battle over immigration policies, a state Republican leader and a critic of illegal immigration are quietly offering to help communities fight the state’s new “sanctuary” law. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “Throughout 2017, Alameda County probation officers and ICE agents traded information, including people’s home addresses, photographs, and citizenship status.” East Bay Express


A post-mortem: A major California housing bill failed after opposition from the low-income residents it aimed to help. Here’s how it went wrong. Los Angeles Times

Plus: California’s population grows to 39.8 million — and housing stock increases too, but at a far slower pace. San Francisco Chronicle

Outside help: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is among the Republicans from outside California who have contributed to the campaign to repeal the state’s gas-tax increase. Los Angeles Times

Good job! “A new report shows that most colleges are failing when it comes to graduating low-income students, but the University of California system is an exception.The Atlantic



Big court decision: The rise of independent contracting has delivered benefits for some, such as greater flexibility for workers and lower costs for employers. But it also ensnared some people in low-wage jobs without benefits and with working schedules that can change daily. Now, after a state Supreme Court ruling Monday, businesses across California could be forced to reclassify swaths of their workforces as employees, with profound effects on workers and companies. Los Angeles Times

Remember this? “San Bernardino County prosecutors on Wednesday dropped felony charges against a homeless Joshua Tree couple accused of child abuse after they were found living with their children in a shack in the desert.” Los Angeles Times

On the run: A manhunt was underway for a registered sex offender and parolee who led police on an hours-long car chase Tuesday in his motor home with two of his young children on board, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Charged: “A suspected Buena Park gang member is facing federal charges after a series of armed robberies at gas stations and convenience stores in Orange and Los Angeles counties.” Los Angeles Daily News


Spooky scary: The first death from E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce has been reported in California, as the outbreak spreads. Los Angeles Times

Yay, bikers! Closed for nearly a decade, the historic Gabrielino Trail is nearly restored — thanks to mountain bikers. Los Angeles Times


Oh snap: Snap Inc. again shows why it should not have become a public company, writes columnist Michael Hiltzik. Los Angeles Times

Cool exhibit: In Los Angeles, “Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema,” a retrospective unprecedented in its scope, begins Friday and lasts till the end of June. Los Angeles Times

Fun: “The California Stage Theater Creations is joining the Sacramento Public Library in presenting a five-week festival exploring the Lost Plays of Shakespeare.” Capital Public Radio

At the movies: Rachel Weisz takes matters into her own hands in her film “Disobedience.” Los Angeles Times

Playmate to Politico: How Pamela Anderson became “an international woman of mystery.” The Hollywood Reporter


Los Angeles area: sunny, 68, Thursday; sunny, 82, Friday. San Diego: sunny, 66, Thursday; sunny, 75, Friday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 60, Thursday; partly cloudy, 62, Friday. Sacramento: sunny, 82, Thursday; partly cloudy, 85, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Mike Shaw:

“In 1975, I transferred my unemployment insurance ($95 a week) from New York to California. Hitched a ride in a van with three strangers. Most memorable stops were Halloween in Boulder, Colo., and our last night in Yosemite. They dropped me off in Sausalito, at my sister Pam’s house. Spent two glorious years in Mill Valley. Thirty-five years later and after 25 as a mailman and raising a family in Sacramento, I relocated to Fort Walton Beach, Fla. I often wonder what happened to my traveling strangers. Thanks for the memories, Northern California.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.