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Los Angeles is a land of immigrants. One in every three people living in L.A. County was born outside of the U.S. That’s more than 3.6 million people, the largest foreign-born population of any county in the nation. Millions more Southern Californians are the children or grandchildren of immigrants, refugees or exiles from every corner of the world.

Los Angeles has long been a hub for international communities. It’s home to the largest populations of people from Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala and Armenia outside of those countries. L.A.’s diverse diaspora populations help define the region, but these groups also shape the character, culture and politics of their home countries from afar.

Welcome to HomeLAnd.

(Animation by Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Published June 22, 2020

In this 7-part series, we’ll meet L.A.-based activists, religious leaders, musicians, journalists and others who help illustrate the deep connections and unique influence L.A.’s immigrant communities have around the world.

Kim Luu-Ng

Vietnamese American lawyer and restaurateur

Luu-Ng works as an immigration and human rights lawyer. She also co-owns a pioneering Southeast Asian restaurant in L.A. In both jobs, Luu-Ng seeks to honor her family’s experience as refugees from Vietnam and celebrate LA’s immigrants.

Elias Wondimu

Ethiopian American journalist

Wondimu, an exiled Ethiopian American journalist, is the founding director of TSEHAI Publishers. He seeks to fill a void in the U.S. book market by telling stories of Ethiopia and Africa that have been censored and erased in Western media.

Serj Tankian

Armenian American musician and activist

The grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors, Tankian is best known as the lead vocalist for metal band System Of A Down. His outspoken political activism has made him a major player in Armenia’s politics today.

Ju Hui Judy Han

Korean American queer organizer and activist

Han was part of an early wave of queer Korean American organizers who took on homophobia within Korean evangelical Christian churches. As a UCLA academic, she studies South Korean protest movements.


Homa Sarshar

Iranian American author and journalist

Sarshar, a reporter from Iran, moved to L.A. just before the Iranian Revolution. She’s become a leading broadcast journalist serving the Persian diaspora and a generous patron of local Iranian American art, culture and history.

Erkin Sidick

Uighur activist and NASA engineer

Sidick, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, is SoCal’s leading Uighur dissident. He’s calling attention to China’s genocidal policies targeting the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority in their historic homeland, Xinjiang.

Naason Joaquin Garcia

Mexican religious leader

Garcia is the leader of La Luz Del Mundo, a Protestant religious movement from Guadalajara. One year ago, Garcia was arrested on charges of child molestation here in L.A., where he has lived on and off for nearly two decades.

Aaron Schrank covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and with support from USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

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