By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
At that point, he again made his way to San Diego, where a shelter referred him to the attorney who would eventually change his life. Gerber says Hernandez-Montiel initially struck him as a smart kid, but one who had obviously been abused. “I think he was really resigned to a terrible place in life . . . I warned him at the outset, ‘This is going to be a long process and you have to find a way to get along and provide for yourself.’”
Hernandez-Montiel managed to scrape by, staying at shelters or with friends and getting after-school work at restaurants. But even the part-time jobs proved difficult, after employers or co-workers discovered that he was a teenage boy dressed as a girl. His case was finally heard by an immigration judge and, later, by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which found that while his testimony was “coherent, sincere and credible,” it wasn’t enough to merit asylum. But late last month, U.S. District Judge William W. Schwarzer reversed the decisions, finding that Hernandez-Montiel had been persecuted as a member of a particular social group. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Gerber will say little about his client’s current situation, except that he is living in Southern California and happy with the latest decision. “He is subject to deportation if the decision is reversed,” Gerber explains. The lawyer says the case is causing an uproar, even among his colleagues, including one associate who refused to work on it.
“You know, I don’t really see this as a gay case. I see this more as a human-rights case,” Gerber says. “The goal here isn’t to validate his lifestyle but to save his life.”
24-Carat 99 Cents Store
“Our best store is located on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, which leads us to believe a Beverly Hills location would be great,” said 99 Cents president Eric Schiffer, who advertised for a Rodeo storefront in the August 29 edition of the L.A. Times.
Schiffer said he does more than $9 million a year in business at his Beverly Hills–adjacent Wilshire Boulevard shop, where Richard Gere and Vanna White have been spotted buying Pelegrino and toothpaste, respectively. Schiffer’s plans to capitalize on 90210’s nose for a bargain did not come as good news, however, to the retailers already on Rodeo.
“I don’t think any one of the landlords would be thrilled,” said manager Ron Michaels of Louis Vuitton, president of the Rodeo Drive Committee. “This is a unique location, where it is three short blocks of luxury-goods businesses. I don’t think it would be a positive impact on the street and business area.”
Michaels doubted whether the 99 Cents Only Store could swallow the rents of $192 a square foot and up that have already driven out such well-heeled merchandisers as Yves Saint Laurent, Etro Milano and Baby Guess. And he questioned the store’s appeal to the big-spending tourists who crowd the drive.
“What are they going to do — buy tin foil and Gatorade?” he said.
Schiffer, however, remains optimistic. “Maybe a struggling Rodeo business owner will see our ad and will want to split their space with us,” he said. “Or maybe there is a person with more space than he or she needs who thinks it would be a novelty to let us take half the space because we bring in traffic . . . We wouldn’t want to compete with the stores in Beverly Hills. It would allow people to save money on regular items so they have extra to spend on the fancy items at the upscale stores.”
Critics aside, there is little to stop the chain from opening if owners can find an appropriate location. But that’s a big if. “I assume it is like Home Depot and relies on a large volume of sales, so would need a large storefront to make the money,” said Mahdi Aluzri, deputy director of the Beverly Hills Planning Department.
“On the surface, they [the store owners] might act like they were upset,” Schiffer mused. “But when they closed at 5 p.m., they would come to the store and do some shopping.”
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