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Villaraigosa Should Worry About the Border

Although he was endorsed by Richard Riordan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s education secretary, new Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has wasted no time in slamming the governor’s views on controlling illegal immigration. Villaraigosa recently opined, "Instead of closing the borders, as stated by Schwarzenegger, we should look at our border as an opportunity." What Villaraigosa fails to mention is that many illegal immigrants have used poor border control as an opportunity for crime.

Villaraigosa says that illegal immigrants should not be "punished or demonized." He supports the existing LAPD rule, the so-called Special Order 40, which stops police from arresting individuals based on their status as illegal immigrants. "We need our police officers to fight gangs and organized crime," the new mayor claims. Yet, Villaraigosa ignores the fact that some of the largest and most violent gangs in Los Angeles are composed mostly of illegal immigrants.

Heather MacDonald, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and an expert on the crime problem among illegal immigrants, has written: "In Los Angeles, for example, dozens of members of a ruthless Salvadoran prison gang have sneaked back into town after having been deported for such crimes as murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and drug trafficking. Police officers know who they are and know that their mere presence in the country is a felony. Yet should a cop arrest an illegal gangbanger for felonious reentry, it is he who will be treated as a criminal, for violating the LAPD’s rule against enforcing immigration law."

One of the most dangerous gangs in America is the 18th Street gang based in Los Angeles. According to state and local law enforcement, illegal immigrants constitute the large majority of the gang’s estimated membership of 30,000. The 18th Street gang not only recruits recently arrived illegal immigrants, it has organized smuggling operations to bring in illegal immigrants from Mexico who pay off their "transportation" costs by working as drug dealers for the gang. Not surprisingly, the gang is involved in creating fraudulent identification cards and immigration papers. Overall, the gang’s criminal activities are wide-ranging, violent, and ruthless.

Gang members engage in drive-by shootings, murder, murder for hire, rape, extortion, arms trafficking, carjacking, and auto theft. The gang maintains an arsenal of automatic weapons including Tech 9s, Mac 10s, Mac 11s, and AK-47s. Many of these weapons are used to protect the gang’s top activity – international drug trafficking. Al Valdez, a Southern California district attorney investigator, says: "Intelligence indicates that 18th Street has established ties with the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, which has impacted the Southwest border states in particular. Because of the large amount of drugs which 18th Street distributes and sells, the gang also has ties to the Mexican Mafia prison gang and many black street gangs."

Illegal immigrants are responsible for a high percentage of serious crimes in Los Angeles. In recent testimony to Congress, Heather MacDonald notes: "In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide in the first half of 2004 (which totaled 1,200 to 1,500) targeted illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) were for illegal aliens." Furthermore, Los Angeles police annually arrest 2,500 illegal immigrants who were convicted of previous crimes and deported, but who returned again to the city. The bottom line is that America’s porous southern border has led to a crime wave in Los Angeles.

Instead of criticizing Governor Schwarzenegger, Mayor Villaraigosa should join the governor in trying to get the federal government to secure and control the border. Only then will the flow of illegal immigrants into criminal activity and violent street gangs start to dry up.

Unfortunately, Villaraigosa seems intent on playing ethnic politics, mouthing platitudes, tying the hands of the police, and covering his eyes to the realities of his city. It’s going to be a long four years for Los Angeles.

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Written By

Mr. Izumi is director of education studies and senior fellow in California studies at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy.

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