Newsletter: Essential California: Tough talk, limited action in Trump border crackdown

U.S.-Mexico border
The border between Mexico, left, and the United States south of San Diego.
(Bill Wechter / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 19. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Mixed record for Trump on the border: Since President Trump took office, his border crackdown remains elusive, at least by some measures. Construction of the wall has yet to begin, the number of Border Patrol officers has actually dropped by 220, and immigration agents are on track to deport 10,000 fewer people this year than in President Obama’s last year in office, the latest figures show. At the same time, illegal border crossings are down 22% compared with last summer. Arrests of people in the country illegally have surged 43% since January. Los Angeles Times

O.C. jail scandal’s stark consequences: A scandal roiling Orange County took a turn when a judge on Friday threw out the possibility of a death sentence for the man who murdered eight people at a Seal Beach salon, ruling that law enforcement has repeatedly failed to turn over relevant evidence about the use of jailhouse informants. The judge blasted the county district attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department for failing to comply with his discovery orders, saying the agencies appeared to be the only ones “in denial” about the constitutional violations raised by the ongoing informant scandal. Families of victims are outraged. Los Angeles Times


Californian dies in Barcelona: A California man was one of the 13 people killed in Thursday’s terror attack in Barcelona. Jared Tucker, a 42-year-old Lafayette resident, was celebrating his honeymoon. Los Angeles Times

Hateful: Shock in Alameda after a synagogue is vandalized. More security is planned. East Bay Times

Fresh start: UC Berkeley’s new chancellor is trying stir new optimism and excitement on a campus battered by financial woes, free-speech controversies, sexual-harassment scandals and a leadership crisis under her predecessor. Los Angeles Times

Making noise: How the rapper Common has become a big force in California criminal justice and prison reform — and is visiting the state’s lockups to meet with inmates. Cal Matters


Plus: L.A. County plans to study the effects of criminal justice reforms on public safety. It comes as some officials say reforms have caused problems. “While developed with good intentions, the legislation may have created unintended consequences, placing our public and our first responders at risk,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said. Los Angeles Times

Homeless anger: Residents in Orange County want to clean up a huge homeless encampment that has grown on the Santa Ana River. Orange County Register

Eclipse not lost: Los Angeles has a lot going for it: the sunshine, the mountains, the ocean, the food. But on the day of the Great American Eclipse, it won’t exactly be the place to be. Here in L.A., we’ll experience a partial eclipse. Even at the point of greatest eclipse, just 62% of the sun will be obscured by the moon. No darkness. No stars. No animals acting funny. But there is still stuff to do. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Although the moon will push in front of the sun and darken the skies on Monday, California’s solar-heavy electricity grid isn’t expected to run short on energy to power homes, businesses and industry. Los Angeles Times

Valley route: The Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley has by most measures been a big success — the busway that could. But does it make sense to turn it into a rail line? Curbed Los Angeles

Song stories: Randy Newman created an anthem for Los Angeles with “I Love L.A.” But his work over the decades also pointed to the political world we now inhabit. The Atlantic

This week’s most popular stories in Essential California:

1. After violence in Virginia, the far right and white nationalists are turning to a familiar target: California. Los Angeles Times


2. A look at how the shopping mall is being redefined. Orange County Register

3. After losing everything in the Erskine fire, this couple spent 13 months in a trailer. Now, they’ve returned to a charred ghost town. Los Angeles Times

4. California confronts its Confederate past as monuments are abruptly removed. Los Angeles Times

5. A map of 11 big projects that could change the San Fernando Valley. Curbed Los Angeles

ICYMI, here are this week’s Great Reads

Hollywood horror story: Mel Gibson had high hopes when he started planning a movie based on the bestseller “The Professor and the Madman.” But what looked like a promising project has now capsized under an ugly legal dispute between star-producer Gibson and one of the production companies behind the movie. A series of fights over budgets, filming locations and final cut has raised questions about the future of the film, creating a cautionary tale about the challenges independent filmmakers face in trying to get their pet projects onto the big screen. Los Angeles Times

A new desert oasis — or mirage? The tiny desert town of Nipton had cycled through seven private owners, all of them believing that a renaissance was at hand for the community composed of a store, five-room hotel and handful of homes about 10 miles from Interstate 15 and two miles west of the Nevada state line. Now, with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California and the recent sale of Nipton to a cannabis company for $5 million, it seems the historic mining camp’s time has finally come. Los Angeles Times

Inspiration from the 818: “It’s the ugliest number — none of the digits repeat, and it’s super-hard to remember. But if there’s an 818 at the beginning, that’s all that matters.” — Musician Alana Haim on the San Fernando Valley’s area code and how the region is reflected in her music. Los Angeles Times


Falcon Crest, for real: In Napa Valley, an epic dispute over wine, land and a name. San Francisco Chronicle

Ten years of reality: An oral history of the Kardashian decade — and how it changed Hollywood. “I don’t think we knew what we were even saying yes to,” Khloe Kardashian says. The Hollywood Reporter

Looking Ahead

Sunday: Rep. Brad Sherman will host a Valley Town Hall meeting in Reseda.

Sunday: California Hot Sauce Expo in Anaheim.

Sunday: Right-wing activists will hold rally on immigration in Laguna Beach.

Monday: Griffith Observatory holds an event for the partial eclipse of the sun. Another event is planned at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

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.