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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Latino in America: The Garcias

Aired September 19, 2010 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LORENA GARCIA: My name is Lorena Garcia.

JESSIE GARCIA: My name is Jessie Garcia.

PEDRO ANTONIO MORENO GARCIA: My name is Pedro Antonio Moreno Garcia.

BETTY GARCIA, IMMIGRANT FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: My name is Betty Garcia.

ISABEL GARCIA, CHIEF LEGAL DEFENDER, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: My name is Isabel Garcia.

WILLIAM GARCIA, IMMIGRANT FROM PUERTO RICO: My name is William Garcia. Please call me Bill Garcia.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST (voice-over): The name Garcia is now one of the 10 most common last names in America. Beating out Thomas, Wilson and Taylor. And rapidly catching up with the Smiths.

The Garcias are a sign of a sea change sweeping the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My parents are Cuban but I was born in Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Born in Spain, Irish mother. Big mixture but Latino.

B. GARCIA: My boys are Dominican-Rican.

(LAUGHTER)

P. GARCIA: It's like a big stew.

O'BRIEN: Latinos are now the largest minority in America. Fifty-one million strong and growing. Some are struggling.

CINDY GARCIA, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: People makes mistakes. Whatever you do after that, that's what really proves who you are.

O'BRIEN: Somewhere succeeding.

L. GARCIA: I am living the American dream right now. I'm 40 years old and I run six companies.

O'BRIEN: And some are caught between two worlds.

B. GARCIA: Our children don't identify with the Latino culture.

O'BRIEN: Through the Garcias, we'll tell you the story of LATINOS IN AMERICA.

Tucson, Arizona, awakens to hundreds of protesters in the streets. This is ground zero in the immigration war. And on the front lines -- Isabel Garcia.

She's an unapologetic champion of the people many Americans love to hate. Illegal immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: You're called illegal aliens. You came here illegally, you broke the law.

I. GARCIA: It's amazing that they try to treat us as illegals or foreigners -- because I've been called all of that -- when this is our home. This has always been our home.

O'BRIEN: Isabel Garcia is Mexican-American. Her family has lived in Mexico for four generations.

I. GARCIA: This was Mexico, too. We're indigenous to this land.

O'BRIEN: Isabel is chief legal defender for Pima County, Arizona. Many of the people she defends are undocumented without a visa or work permit.

I. GARCIA: We have 12 million undocumented people in this country.

O'BRIEN (on camera): There are plenty of people who would say, then round them up, fine them and send them home.

I. GARCIA: It points out the ignorance because we have 12 million people who support the economy of the United States of America.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): One of Isabel's most controversial cases involves this 26-year-old, Araceli Torres, who's lived in the United States most of her life. Illegally.

Araceli is one of the Panda Express 11, a high-profile case Garcia and her defense team took on last year.

ARACELI TORRES, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: So I just would like to get the attention of the president and tell him --

O'BRIEN (on camera): Oh, my goodness, look at those bangs.

TORRES: Yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Araceli has attended Tucson public school since fourth grade. She was only 7 years old when her family drove across the border. She barely remembers it.

(On camera): Did you realize that you were undocumented? TORRES: No.

O'BRIEN: When did you know?

TORRES: When I was ready to finish high school and go to college.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): At 17, Araceli dropped out of high school to help her family make ends meet. Eventually taking a $10 an hour job at the fast food chain Panda Express.

(On camera): Were you a good employee?

TORRES: Yes, I was there seven years. They loved me.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): A stable job until March 18th, 2008. Araceli came in for her 12-hour shift.

TORRES: We just opened the doors and the first people that came in was the police.

O'BRIEN: Once inside, agents rounded up employees. All told, 11 employees were arrested, all of them working with fake Social Security numbers.

(On camera): Did you know it was a crime to have a Social Security number that's fake?

TORRES: I know that it's not a crime to work. I knew that I was not doing anything bad because I mean we work like everybody else.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Using a fake id to work is a crime here in Arizona. A felony. The state has passed some of the harshest anti- illegal immigrant laws in the country. Araceli, caught up in the crackdown, could be deported.

SHERIFF ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTRY: She's here illegal. That's what it is. If you don't like it, change the laws.

O'BRIEN: Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County is one of the state's toughest enforcers of the law. He's considered by many to be the poster boy of the anti-illegal immigration movement.

ARPAIO: They're not going to intimidate me and think I'm going to hide.

O'BRIEN: Sheriff Arpaio has become notorious for putting inmates in shackles and pink underwear and housing them in tents in the hot desert sun.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating his office for racial profiling.

ARPAIO: I'm going keep enforcing the law. And these people that keep going after me, calling my every name in the book are not going to deter me. O'BRIEN: Arpaio's tactics have earned him lots of media attention and the undying opposition of Isabel Garcia. Last May, she led a march in protest of Arpaio.

I. GARCIA: Arpaio, racist. You are a terrorist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: USA. No, you can't.

I. GARCIA: He has polarized Maricopa County like we've never seen before.

O'BRIEN: For Isabel Garcia, this fight is a family tradition. Her father, Rudy Garcia, was a copper miner and labor leader. He taught her at an early age the importance of fighting for what you believe.

I. GARCIA: My father fought for every civil right. We lived through seven strikes that the copper workers had to go through to gain decent working conditions for the families. So you can say I was born with it in my blood.

O'BRIEN: Her critics say Isabel Garcia crossed the line when she attended a protest where a pinata of Sheriff Arpaio was knocked to the ground.

I. GARCIA: One of the right-wing hate radio disk jockeys brought out his video that showed me with a pinata head and they use that to say that I should not be employed in Pima County.

O'BRIEN: Isabel said she has nothing to do with creating the pinata, and only picked it up to defuse the protest.

I. GARCIA: I picked up the pinata head to get the crowd moving.

O'BRIEN: Arpaio's office called her actions disgraceful. There were calls and letters demanding she be fired.

(On camera): Because you're a public official you shouldn't have been taking part in the protest.

I. GARCIA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: That was the gist of a lot of the letters.

I. GARCIA: Yes. Absolutely. And I think that's a shame. You see, I believe this is my responsibility.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And that's brought death threats.

I. GARCIA: I have one gentleman that in an open hearing came this close to me and with his finger like a gun said right between the eyes twice to me.

O'BRIEN: Despite the threats, Isabel continues to challenge Arizona's tough laws.

I. GARCIA: How can we be so hypocritical to say, you know, how can you violate our laws and come into the country illegally when we've encouraged that for 100 years?

O'BRIEN: In fact, for decades the U.S. government looked the other way as American businesses took advantage of the cheap labor.

In the '90s, and particularly after 9/11, officials got tougher, deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

After her arrest, Araceli Torres was detained for five months, separated from her then-3-year-old daughter, an American citizen.

(On camera): Did she ask where you were?

TORRES: Yes, of course. She asked for me. And I used to call her on the phone, talk to her and she got to the point that she don't want to talk to me. She thought that I didn't want to be with her. I just remember just praying to God to put her in his hands.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Araceli pled guilty to a misdemeanor. She's been out of jail a year. She faces possible deportation to Mexico, a country she barely remembers.

(On camera): Your daughter is an American citizen.

TORRES: Yes, she is.

O'BRIEN: Your mother is a resident?

TORRES: Mm-hmm.

O'BRIEN: Your uncle.

TORRES: He's a citizen.

O'BRIEN: Your sister?

TORRES: Citizen.

O'BRIEN: Who do you know back in Mexico?

TORRES: Nobody.

O'BRIEN: You literally know no one?

TORRES: No.

O'BRIEN: Do you feel like you're an American?

TORRES: Yes. All my family is here. And my memories are here. I grew up in here. I went to school here.

I. GARCIA: This is her home. This is where she belongs. She should be allowed to remain in this country.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): At her deportation hearing, with Isabel Garcia's help, Araceli tried to prove returning to Mexico would be an extreme hardship for her family. She failed. It took less than three hours for the court to rule that Araceli must return to Mexico within two months. Araceli plans to appeal.

TORRES: No matter where they sent me to, I'll still be American.

GRAPHICS: Araceli Torres lost her appeal and is facing deportation. She will take her American-born daughter to Mexico is she is forced to leave.

GRAPHICS: Isabel Garcia has become a vocal activist against Arizona's controversial SB1070 law that targets illegal immigrant.

GRAPHICS: Sheriff Joe Arpaio is taking steps toward entering the Republican primary for the 2012 presidential race.

O'BRIEN: When we come back, 17-year-old, Cindy Garcia, fighting the odds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Los Angeles, California, a city in the grip of a crisis that's sweeping the nation. Seventeen-year-old Cindy Garcia is in the trenches, she's a senior at Fremont High School in south L.A. It's almost entirely Latino and 70 percent of the students don't graduate on time.

C. GARCIA: I don't want to fall into the 70 percent. No. I know I deserve better than that that.

O'BRIEN: It's not going to be easy, Cindy is more than a semester behind and there's just three months until graduation.

(On camera): What happened your ninth grade year?

C. GARCIA: I guess I didn't find it important. Like I didn't care.

O'BRIEN: Did you go to?

C. GARCIA: To school?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

C. GARCIA: No, I was -- I would --

O'BRIEN: You cut every day?

C. GARCIA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Every day?

C. GARCIA: Kind of, yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Now she's trying to make up for lost time. But for Cindy, like the children of many Latino immigrant, family often trumps school.

Cindy lives in this three-bedroom house with her mother, two sisters, baby brother and a 2 1/2-year-old niece.

C. GARCIA: Close your eyes.

O'BRIEN: She's constantly pulled out of school to take care of the kids. And help out at the family store which barely makes ends meet.

C. GARCIA: I'll check if there's some more in the back because I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Cindy also acts as a translator for her mother Onelia who speaks no English. She's been sick and needs help navigating doctor's appointments.

(On camera): Do you ever want to say to her, I need to be in school?

C. GARCIA: Yes, I do.

O'BRIEN: And do you say that?

C. GARCIA: No.

O'BRIEN: No. Why not?

C. GARCIA: Because -- because I'm the only one that can help her sometimes, you know. So I can't -- I mean if it was for something else, like, go to the store with me, then OK. But this is very important. So I kind of have to be there.

O'BRIEN: That's a lot of responsibility. You're 17.

C. GARCIA: I guess, yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cindy's mother Onelia came here from Guatemala at age 15. Onelia resents her own mother for holding her back.

C. GARCIA: Because my grandma was the kind of person that believes that women shouldn't go to school, only men.

O'BRIEN (on camera): I mean you look at a kid like Cindy Garcia, and you see all the things that she's struggling with, and some of that is Latino culture.

MONICA GARCIA, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Right. Families need to survive. Latino culture is built around family, but I think it can be a strength as well.

Who knows here, we're having the next superintendent, the next teacher, the next board members.

O'BRIEN: Monica Garcia is the board president for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

M. GARCIA: Your education is a priority for me. Your education I'm working to get it to be a priority for California.

O'BRIEN: It's the second largest school district in the nation. Overwhelmingly Latino and it's in peril.

And Education Week study found that half of its 700,000 students aren't graduating on time.

(On camera): Two students walk in the door, the odds are one is not going to make it?

M. GARCIA: Yes. And that's what we're trying to fix.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With Latinos on track to be the largest demographic of school-aged children by the year 2050, the high stakes aren't lost on Monica Garcia.

M. GARCIA: The child in our classroom is not same child that was there 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and I think more than that, our world is changing. And so the school system hasn't changed fast enough to meet the kids of today.

O'BRIEN: Latinos attend the country's most underfunded and overcrowded high schools. And Garfield, just across town from Cindy Garcia's school, is one of them.

(On camera): So this school was built to hold 1500 students.

M. GARCIA: That's right.

O'BRIEN: How many does it hold now?

M. GARCIA: Forty-eight hundred year round, which means that at least 3600 kids at one time.

O'BRIEN: Three times the amount it was meant for?

M. GARCIA: Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Latinos also attend schools with the highest poverty rate, nearly half are learning English as a second language. And for many, like Cindy Garcia, working and supporting the family come before school.

M. GARCIA: Steve lived here. Mr. Cayeros (ph) lived there.

O'BRIEN (on camera): And where did you live?

(Voice-over): Monica Garcia grew up just blocks from Garfield here in east L.A. The daughter of poor Mexican immigrants she learned English as a second language.

M. GARCIA: I lived her at 759 Costner. This is a two-bedroom house. Living room, very --

O'BRIEN: Five kids in a two-bedroom house?

M. GARCIA: Yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Monica's parents stressed education. They scraped together money for Catholic school and sent Monica to college with the help of scholarships and grants. Education was her ticket out of poverty.

M. GARCIA: I used to be poor. I'm not poor anymore. And so for children of poverty, education is that equalizer and what we have to do is help children not have to choose, do I want to support my family or do I want to be in school?

O'BRIEN: It's a tough choice. That Cindy Garcia makes every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention all seniors, be your (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: She's nearly 40 credits behind. But teachers say she's bright and she's determined to graduate. And someday become a social worker. So Cindy is class from sun up to sun down.

C. GARCIA: I'm tired.

O'BRIEN: And on weekends to make it happen.

C. GARCIA: It starts at 8:00 with my first class and it ends at 8:30 with my last class. So it's basically a 12-hour day.

O'BRIEN: Still, nobody believes that Cindy can graduate, including her mother.

C. GARCIA: She says she doesn't know that. I tell her yes but that sometimes she doubts it.

O'BRIEN: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is convinced the future of the nation depends on whether the growing number of Latino kids like Cindy Garcia graduate.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR, LOS ANGELES: This is the big civil rights issue of our time.

O'BRIEN (on camera): So are the kids just failing or is the system failing the kids?

VILLARAIGOSA: The system is failing the kids.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mayor Villaraigosa would know. He was one of those kids.

(On camera): Why did you drop out?

VILLARAIGOSA: When I went to public school, it was the 1960s, they put me in shop classes and basic reading classes. I got turned off. And I just said, I'm out of here.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Thanks to a strong mother and a dedicated teacher, he got back on track. He went to the college with the help of grants and loans. Then on to law school and finally the mayor's office.

(On camera): Is there hope for someone like Cindy Garcia?

VILLARAIGOSA: I have hope for Cindy Garcia. I believe in these kids.

O'BRIEN: Because you did it?

VILLARAIGOSA: Because I did and because so many of us who've had to struggle have made it. Only in America does this story of success against all odds happen on the scale and scope that it happens here.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): But first, Cindy has got to pass her exams. It's the last day of finals and the pressure is on.

C. GARCIA: It's nerve-racking now, now that I'm here. I'm kind of nervous.

O'BRIEN: And even if she does pass, to graduate, Cindy will have to spend the next two months making up classes. It will come down to the wire.

(On camera): Villaraigosa said something very interesting to me. He said, you know, there are not many places where you can have all the list of things that you and I have talked about in the past and still be a giant success.

In America, that's very doable. Is that going to be your story?

C. GARCIA: Yes. I'm not the kind of person that's just going to sit there and just watch life pass me by and not do anything about it. If I see that I don't like where I'm standing, I just move.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Up next, Cindy hits a major roadblock.

C. GARCIA: I'm mad at myself because I messed up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Cindy Garcia's grades are in.

C. GARCIA: This is my report card which I'm not that proud of, but I'm kind of proud because I passed most of my classes.

O'BRIEN: All but biology and homeroom class. No small feat for Cindy Garcia.

C. GARCIA: All my teachers told me if you would have just been here you would have probably got A's in all your classes, but I wasn't there.

O'BRIEN: Cindy attends Fremont High School, just one of many overcrowded public schools in Los Angeles that's losing students to the dropout crisis, and teachers to budget cuts.

But for Cindy, home is also a challenge. Family duties like taking care of the house, translating for her Spanish-speaking mother and helping out at the family store often come before school, which has put Cindy more than a semester behind.

So she's in summer school to make up the last four classes she needs to graduate on time.

C. GARCIA: I can't afford no mistakes, like my plan, how it's set, that's how it has to go. It's like it has to go exactly how the program.

O'BRIEN: But it doesn't.

C. GARCIA: I'm mad at myself because I messed up.

O'BRIEN: Cindy is pregnant. The father, her boyfriend Javier Abarca. They decide to raise the baby together.

C. GARCIA: I don't want to be another baggage for people. I don't -- you know, she already has to deal with the stores, the house, the baby, her sickness, the bills, my step dad, the lawyers, the courts, my niece. She does not need another grand kid.

O'BRIEN: The statistics are shocking, more than half of all Latinas get pregnant before the age of 20 and nearly 70 percent of those teenage moms don't graduate.

After her older sister had a baby at 16, Cindy vowed it wouldn't happen to her. Now she vows it's not going to hold her back.

C. GARCIA: It's not even an option anymore. It's something I have to do.

DEBRA EDUARDO, DIRECTOR, DROPOUT PREVENTION: Here she is, she's pregnant and she's not giving up, she's not walking away, she's saying now more than ever I really want to make sure that I finish school, and I admire her strength.

O'BRIEN: Deb Eduardo is the director of Dropout Prevention in Los Angeles. She knows exactly what Cindy is going through. She's been there.

EDUARDO: I ended up getting married at 15.

O'BRIEN: Debra rebelled against her strict Mexican father, dropped out of high school, got married and had a baby.

EDUARDO: I told myself if I'm going to be a good parent and raise this child, I better go back to school and get an education.

O'BRIEN: Ten years and four children later, Debra got her Masters Degree in school social work, all the while work the graveyard shift as a supermarket cashier.

Pregnancy wasn't the end of Deb Eduardo's dream and she says it doesn't have to be the end for Cindy either.

EDUARDO: I don't think it has to do anything for her prospects. It's just about staying focused and getting the support and the resources to be able to carry on with her dreams.

MARQUIS JONES, DIPLOMA PROJECT ADVISER, FREMONT HIGH SCHOOL: It's going to be up to you following through so.

O'BRIEN: Cindy Garcia's biggest supporter is school counselor Marquis Jones, diploma project adviser at Fremont High School, a program started by Deb Eduardo's office to help kids at risk of dropping out.

Today it's being drastically cut back because of California's massive budget cuts.

C. GARCIA: If it wasn't for Mr. Jones, I think I'd still be lost. When he tells me, Cindy, I know you can do it, it's not even a question to me, he's like I know you can. Because I know you. Like that actually, like, wow, like OK, he thinks I can do it, you know?

O'BRIEN: Which makes the conversation Cindy's about to have that much harder.

C. GARCIA: We're going to see Mr. Jones. The diploma counselor.

JONES: What's going on? How you doing?

O'BRIEN: She's been missing classes because of severe morning sickness.

C. GARCIA: I still feel like really sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, so like I went to the doctor and they were like yes, you're pregnant.

Oh, Mr. Jones, what am I going to do?

O'BRIEN: Now Cindy is afraid she'll miss her graduation, but Mr. Jones gives her a sliver of hope.

JONES: You can turn your -- basically you can turn credits in until the morning of graduation.

C. GARCIA: Really?

JONES: If you have them -- I mean if it comes down to that, of course.

O'BRIEN: But her morning sickness gets worse and Cindy continues to miss class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a senior.

C. GARCIA: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right? And you're just not coming, even though you have to graduate.

C. GARCIA: No. I'm sick. Like really sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Really, really sick? Do you have a doctor's note or something?

C. GARCIA: No, not exactly.

O'BRIEN: And Cindy's family situation isn't making things any easier. She's juggling morning sickness, school and child care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that your daughter is?

C. GARCIA: No, it's my sister's.

O'BRIEN: No surprise, her niece is a major distraction.

C. GARCIA: No. Come with me, please. She's ready to go. I'm ready for you to go, too. No, no, no, you can't go anywhere. She has to go to the bathroom again? Can you come pick up the baby? Because she peed on herself and she's pooping on herself.

If things keep going how they're going that I need to miss school, I'm not going to be able to finish. Because I need to be there, like, at least every day for these next two days, I need to be there every single day.

O'BRIEN: It's graduation day for Fremont High, but there's a sea of empty seats. Seventy percent of Fremont Students don't graduate on time. And Cindy is one of them. She didn't finish two of her classes.

So while her friends received their diplomas, Cindy and Javier are at the doctor's office for her first ultrasound.

C. GARCIA: He has a big head. My baby has a big head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad you noticed that because you know what? That's very normal.

C. GARCIA: If I would have just, you know, kept on going to class every day of the week and kept on doing the work I was doing, I would have been done right now. I would have been done. But I didn't. I got pregnant.

O'BRIEN: Still, Cindy says she won't give up. She's determined to graduate from high school. Then college. And some day achieve her dream of becoming a social worker.

C. GARCIA: It's not going to be as fast as it would have been if I wouldn't have a baby but I mean I can still do something with my life, you know? And I think all this is going to do is just push me harder to do it.

GRAPHICS: Cindy had a baby girl. She is studying for her GED and taking classes to become a medical assistant.

O'BRIEN: When we return, the Garcias face an identity crisis. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the south, it's either you're white, black or Mexican. I don't like being called Mexican. That's the stereotype.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can tell I'm Latina because I'm brown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of the way I act, because of the way I dress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I have an accent. I haven't lost my accent, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I travel with my coffee maker. Whenever I go anywhere I bring my (INAUDIBLE) and my coffee maker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the way I dance, by my hair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of my family values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm confident. I got style and I got flavor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can tell I'm a Latino because the first thing I do when I meet someone is lean over and kiss them.

(LAUGHTER)

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: It's Sunday, in Charlotte, North Carolina. A party at the Garcias'. Food family, and music. For Betty Garcia, it's a celebration of her Dominican culture.

B. GARCIA: Everybody cuts their own little piece.

O'BRIEN: She tries to get her 15-year-old son Andrew to dance. Andrew's response -- no way. And the rice and beans leave her other son, 17-year-old Brian, cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like Spanish food. I eat fried chicken and stuff.

O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty Garcia left their home and families in New York City 15 years ago for the suburbs of Charlotte.

W. GARCIA: This is beautiful. Charlotte is a wonderful city. Kind of like living in your own little park. O'BRIEN: The Garcias wanted to escape New York's high prices and big city grind. And to give their sons a different kind of life. But now they fear the boys may have lost a vital connection to their Latino roots.

(On camera): Do you worry that taking them out of 193rd Street and the immigrant experience has somehow hurt them?

W. GARCIA: Well, I think about it all the time, yes. I think if they don't have a good sense of who we think they are, you know, as Latinos --

B. GARCIA: Yes, they say my parents are Latinos.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's a struggle that plays out in Latino households across the country. How to preserve Latino heritage when surrounded by American culture.

B. GARCIA: I thought that just because we are Latinos by -- you know, by osmosis, they would be Latinos.

O'BRIEN: Bill Garcia was born in New York City. He's Puerto Rican. Betty moved to New York from the Dominican Republic when she was 9. They met on the subway in 1988. Their first date, at the Museum of Modern Art.

Bill and Betty still call New York home.

B. GARCIA: I knew that when I left New York, I was leaving a Latino neighborhood. I knew I was leaving home. I was a little saddened, yes. A little saddened.

O'BRIEN: The Garcias are part of a wave of Latinos moving away from traditional urban centers and settling in new regions like the south.

When they arrived in Charlotte, they felt like strangers.

W. GARCIA: This is one of the challenges that we faced here. People not even knowing about Dominican Republic.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Like where is it?

W. GARCIA: Yes, where is it?

(LAUGHTER)

B. GARCIA: On the map.

W. GARCIA: On the map. Exactly.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The Garcias have built a successful life in Charlotte. Bill has made a career working for non-profit organizations. Betty is a schoolteacher. But their new life has come at a price.

Their teenage sons are more interested in fitting in than connecting with their Latino roots. Andrew is a sophomore in high school and a football player. Brian is a senior who just got his driver's license.

B. GARCIA: Where are you guys going? You have to be back before 9:00. You didn't tell me you had girls over here. Oh, he's showing off.

W. GARCIA: Did you see these pictures? This is me at high school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty do what they can to expose the boys to their Latino heritage. Today, they're trying to get Brian and Andrew to help create a photo collage, part of an upcoming art exhibit on Hispanic culture in Charlotte. But Brian has little interest.

B. GARCIA: Brian.

C. GARCIA: And no interest in attending the opening of the art exhibit.

B. GARCIA: So do you want to go?

BRIAN GARCIA, WILLIAM AND BETTY'S SON: No.

B. GARCIA: Well, OK. I'll see you later.

BRIAN GARCIA: Close my door.

B. GARCIA: Please?

It's been a little of a struggle for me to -- to get them into it.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Like a tug-of-war sometimes.

B. GARCIA: Yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Instead of the exhibit, the boys head to the mall.

BRIAN GARCIA: It's my heritage, I mean I know. I want to learn, but not right now.

O'BRIEN: Brian's reluctance is with the language. He failed Spanish last year.

BRIAN GARCIA: I used to take the Spanish, I can't speak it well enough to talk to somebody. It's just in my ear.

O'BRIEN: It turns out he's not resisting his mother's culture. He's unfamiliar.

(On camera): She thinks you're a little embarrassed of her and you're rejecting your culture.

BRIAN GARCIA: She shouldn't think that. It just I don't know well enough. I wasn't raised like that. We were raised speaking English and going to McDonald's and stuff.

O'BRIEN: Once you gave up on having them speak Spanish in the house, do you think that pretty much you gave up on having strong Latino culture in the house?

B. GARCIA: I think so. I think the language is the major link to the culture. I really truly believe that.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Their decision to speak English at home was a difficult one.

B. GARCIA: Oh, do that one, Andrew, please. Life gets really tough. So I say you know what? It's too hard to be, OK, (speaking in Spanish), OK? And then, you know, like he's speaking to them in English and the kids are like, OK.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You regret it now though?

B. GARCIA: I do, very much. If I had the chance to start over, I would really make a conscientious effort to teach the boys Spanish. Maybe not even move to Charlotte and stay up in New York.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Once a year, Bill and Betty travel back to New York City to reconnect with their families. It means everything to them. The strongest link they have to their Latino roots. But the Garcia boys don't feel that same connection.

W. GARCIA: Looking forward to at least the trip?

BRIAN GARCIA: Nope.

B. GARCIA: Oh, my god. You haven't done anything.

BRIAN GARCIA: So?

B. GARCIA: You need to pack.

BRIAN GARCIA: I will.

B. GARCIA: OK, maybe, you know, in the next few minutes.

O'BRIEN: When we come back, the Garcias hope a visit to the old neighborhood will change that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Andrew and Brian, they're young, they're teenagers, they haven't grasped the idea of their identity yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: New York City. Washington Heights. Twelve hours from their home in Charlotte.

B. GARCIA: It's good to be home.

O'BRIEN: This is where the Garcias come at least once a year to feel Latino. Back in the same apartment their mother, Betty, grew up in as a child, Brian and Andrew reconnect with aunts and cousins. And their parents hope with their heritage.

B. GARCIA: This is what gets us together. El cafecito.

This is the place where I feel Latina. Dominicana. I can identify with the people, the language, the sayings, everything. This is it. This is Latino world right here. It's like a little piece of the Dominican Republic.

O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty slip right back into their comfort zone.

W. GARCIA: This is home. That's all I can say about that.

B. GARCIA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: They want to share the city they love so much.

B. GARCIA: There's the school.

W. GARCIA: This is where I went to school, guys.

B. GARCIA: Andrew, you have to see this. I was walking up this way to give birth to you.

O'BRIEN: Andrew gets his parents to take him to the museum. That's the site of their first date.

B. GARCIA: One of the things that really made me and Bill happy is that Andrew, he wanted to go to momma. This had never happened to us before. So we were like, yes.

ANDREW GARCIA, WILLIAM AND BETTY'S SON: Between me and my brother, that's 90 years of age.

O'BRIEN: Another connection --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hustle, Bill, hustle.

O'BRIEN: Going back to the same courts where Bill played as a kid. And the highlight for Brian and Andrew? Spending time with their Uncle Bob.

BOB, BRIAN AND ANDREW'S UNCLE: He shot a good wiggles? He got wiggles? Oh, hit you with the cross?

O'BRIEN: Known in these parts as Bobbito, he's a street ball star who also made his name as a deejay in hip-hop radio. He's a legend far beyond New York City.

BOB: Basically, like our family is so embedded in the asphalt here.

O'BRIEN: For the Garcia boys Bobbito and this basketball court may be the coolest connection to their parents' Latino past.

B. GARCIA: The whole community here knows Bobbito. So our boys say, well, you know, being Dominican and Puerto Rican or Latino could be cool, you know, because my uncle is the coolest guy and he's Puerto Rican.

BOB: You OK?

I don't worry about my nephews. They're young, they're teenagers, they haven't grasped the idea of their identity yet. I trust that the older that they get they're going to seek it out. Like when it's not being pushed down their throat.

O'BRIEN (on camera): I know you like to have them spending time with their uncle.

B. GARCIA: He's made a very conscious effort to learn Spanish, and now Brian is trying to speak Spanish. This morning he was, Uncle Bobby, how do you say the toothpaste? And he goes, "pasta dental." He goes, mom, (speaking Spanish).

O'BRIEN: Do you like New York City? Is it fun for you to be back?

A. GARCIA: I love it.

O'BRIEN: You do?

(Voice-over): Finally, the boys begin to open up about how they struggled with their Latino identity.

(On camera): What do you say you are?

BRIAN GARCIA: I tell them I'm Hispanic. But I mean, I never was Hispanic people in the south really. Most of my friends are black, really. Because in the south it's either you're white, black, or you're Mexican. So I don't like being called Mexican. That's the stereotype.

W. GARCIA: They may even be thought to be African-American. Really. I mean so I guess when folks find out that they're Hispanic or Latino, that they maybe get these mixed messages, oh, I didn't realize you were Mexican.

O'BRIEN: Are you worried that they're going to lose the Latino part?

W. GARCIA: Yes, I mean, I am concerned about them losing that aspect of their identity. But actually, I think it happens over time anyway, as we become more Americanized.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The trip to New York seems to have brought the boys closer to their roots. Today it's a cousin's house just outside the city.

W. GARCIA: This is your Aunt Betty.

O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty know the food, conversations, and memories shared here help keep their family's Latino culture alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: d, thank you so much for bringing us all together.

O'BRIEN: And they hope eventually their boys will figure out what it means to be LATINO IN AMERICA.

B. GARCIA: You know, I went through that.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You did?

B. GARCIA: I did.

O'BRIEN: The Dominican girl who came to New York?

B. GARCIA: Yes.

Bobbito.

When I first got here, I was mingling with Americans in school. I was learning the language. I was learning the way of life here. And it was enticing. It was really fascinating to me. And I felt like I was betraying my Dominican culture, my Latino culture, because I was loving the American culture.

O'BRIEN: Do you have to choose? I mean do you have to be American or Latino? It's not --

B. GARCIA: Well, now I know you don't. Now you can love the American culture, live the American dream, but still keep your roots. So I do hope that my boys one day will feel the same way.

O'BRIEN: Tomorrow night, LATINO IN AMERICA continues.