We imagine that everywhere in the nation Trump tramples, there are people who know something about their local world. These people are by no means their entire communities but, like us, they try to know where they are and are, therefore, appalled by the sheer magnitude of the lies and the hypocrisy the man spouts about their local world -- this wannabe Hitler born with a silver spoon stuck in one of his orifices. But he has local supporters and they, too, are people of the lie, people full of resentments and grudges wedged here and there about their persons--people with uneasy or hostile relations with their world. Li'l Hitler is feeding their fantasties of making the world totally secure for the total exploitation of man and nature for their profit and political supremacy.
We are trying to drown ourselves in facts as an antidote for Li'l Hitler's attempt to light up our world. For example, after July 1, 2014, Hispanics outnumbered whites in California, largest state in the union, according to the LA Times. The Pew Research Center anticipates Hispanics will draw even with whites in Texas by 2020, and the Hispanic population surpassed the white population in New Mexico in 2010. Last week the California state Assembly passed a bill to give farmworkers overtime after 40, instead of 60 hours a week. But, we were assured by organizers of a million-dollar-plus fundraiser for Trump the day before he went to Mexico ...
“The only issue that there is is water,” said Fresno businessman Michael Der Manouel Jr., who was a Trump delegate to the GOP national convention. “That’s it.” -- John Ellis, Fresno Bee, Aug. 29, 2016
Farm laborers exult, farmers worry about California overtime bill
Florentino Reyes had stood in the warm sun outside the Capitol, joining scores of farmworkers who gathered to persuade lawmakers to approve unprecedented overtime pay legislation for California’s agricultural laborers.
On Tuesday, Reyes, 48, of Madera returned to his back-bending job picking tomatoes in the broiling heat of the lower Central Valley. He had forfeited a day’s income to come to Sacramento on Monday. But the farmworker, who has spent decades harvesting California produce, was feeling hopeful even as his body ached.
The Legislature on Monday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a potential historic expansion of overtime rules for farmworkers. Assembly Bill 1066 would provide time-and-a-half pay for farm laborers working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, and double pay for those working more than 12 hours a day.
In his long career, Reyes has worked those sorts of hours, sometimes week after grueling week.
“For those of us who work in the farms, we are out there in the hot sun, doing the work that nobody else wants to do,” said Reyes, speaking in Spanish on a cellphone. “Our work impacts us physically. But if the governor signs this, it will raise our lives. It will honor us for doing this work.”
While agricultural business groups protested the legislation, warning of dire economic consequences for farmers and field hands alike, Fresno County grower John Chandler on Tuesday was expressing his own concerns.
“I’m disappointed by the outcome of the vote,” said Chandler, whose family’s Chandler Farms in Selma produces peaches, plums, grapes, mandarins and almonds. “I think it is going to have a negative effect on our farm employees. Our margins aren’t large enough to accommodate all that overtime. So growers are going to have to remain viable by keeping workers within 40 hours a week.
“From a farmer perspective, how do we survive as an industry that uses a lot of labor? What are we going to do?”
Reyes is earning $14 an hour on a temporary contract in the tomato fields. More commonly, he earns $10 an hour in seasonal work on numerous farms. His wife, Flora, 45, a grape harvester, averages $9 or $10 in pay for nine-hour shifts, six days a week and never with overtime pay.
Under California law, agricultural workers earn overtime if they work more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. If Brown signs AB 1066, the new rules will phase in the new pay hikes over six years and allow the governor to suspend them if the economy falters.
Reyes is already counting on increased annual earnings so that he can help his daughter, a student at Madera Community College, and also send money to his mother in Mexico. “It means so much to me because I can maintain our home here and also help my family,” Reyes said. “Normally, at $10 an hour, there’s not much I can do.”
United Farm Workers of America spokesman Marc Grossman said agricultural interests have long “been loudly complaining about serious labor shortages and not being able to find enough workers to harvest their crops.”
Grossman said the California legislation now stands to eliminate an agricultural worker exclusion from federal overtime rules that has existed since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. As a result, he said, farm producers may soon realize they will need to pay up – and pay overtime – to retain the laborers they have.
Farmworkers “are going to get overtime after eight hours – and after 78 years of an unjust exclusion – just like other workers who labor outside, such as construction workers or utility workers,” Grossman said. “And the growers will live with it just like other employers have lived with it for 78 years.”
However, Rosa Acevedo, a farmworker near Stockton, is skeptical that employers will respect the new legislation, even if Brown signs it into law.
Until quitting recently to have a baby girl, Acevedo, 29, was earning up to $9.25 an hour picking grapes in San Joaquin County. Her husband, Jaime Roque, 39, is also a farmworker. She says she plans to return to work in six months, hiring an inexpensive baby sitter for their new daughter, Helen, because their family needs two farm incomes – with overtime or without.
“This is a good law. It could be really good for us,” Acevedo said of the overtime bill. “But my fear is the (farm) companies won’t respect this. They won’t pay us for the extra hours we work. That makes me worry.”
Also worried is Arcadio Castro, 62, a longtime supervisor at Chandler Farms. Castro says his employers take care of him: He is among their top paid farm laborers, earning $17 an hour. He generally works more than 50 hours a week and bunks down in on-site housing.
Castro says he fears Chandler Farms will indeed have to cut his hours and that his earnings will shrink.
“I don’t know yet how it is going to work for me,” Castro said. Other laborers there, who earn $11 an hour for 50-plus hours a week, worry they may have to pick up second jobs if they are held to working 40 hours a week.
But Madera County farmworker Guadalupe Luna, 47, who works in the same tomato fields as Reyes, spoke effusively about the overtime bill – even though Brown so far has made no promise to sign the legislation.
Under ever-challenging economic conditions, Luna and his farmworker wife, Candida Martinez, have raised six sons: two who have also gone into farm labor, one who’s a student at California State University, Fresno, and three others still at home.
“I am so happy, so content this law has passed,” Luna said. “It’s better for me. It’s better for my family. It’s better for putting food on my table. I feel like we’ve finally getting justice, and peace and happiness. I have confidence in the governor.”
At Trump’s fundraiser in Tulare, attendees want to hear about water
In a May rally at Selland Arena in downtown Fresno, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a raucous crowd that he was “going to make a strong play for California.”
On Tuesday, Trump returns to the central San Joaquin Valley for something much more realistic in present-day California – a fundraiser.
It’s been 16 years since a Republican nominee for president actually competed for California. George W. Bush poured millions into the Golden State, and then proceeded to lose here by double-digits to Democrat Al Gore.
Since then, both major party candidates have treated California like a big ATM machine – and nothing more.
Trump is the latest presidential candidate to come looking for cash, and not votes. He is scheduled to hold a private lunch gathering at noon Tuesday at an undisclosed Tulare County location. It follows a Monday fundraiser in the Bay Area. In Tulare, it costs $2,700 to get in the door and $25,000 for a VIP meeting.
According to organizer Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, the event likely will be the largest fundraiser in Valley history. He expects Trump to raise at least $1.25 million and possibly as much as $1.5 million. The previous record was around $1 million for Mitt Romney in 2012 at John Harris’ Sanger home. Harris is the owner of Harris Ranch.
While attendees know Trump is here for the money – cash that likely will be funneled into campaigns in swing states such as Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania – they also hope to hear some encouraging words from him on what seems a point of almost total unanimity: the need for water.
“The only issue that there is is water,” said Fresno businessman Michael Der Manouel Jr., who was a Trump delegate to the GOP national convention. “That’s it.”
Everyone interviewed who is attending the event only spoke of water, even though other issues of importance to the Valley are on the radar, most obviously immigration. Trump, in fact, is scheduled to make an immigration speech Wednesday in Arizona. Following the Tulare event, Trump will fly to Everett, Wash., home of a Boeing jet manufacturing plant that is the largest in the world.
Nunes on Monday traveled to the Bay Area to brief Trump on water to prepare him for Tuesday.
“He’s already been here once, so I think he has a decent handle on it,” said Nunes, who will also brief Trump on intelligence issues. Nunes is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes’ office helped coordinate the event, which initially had the possibility of a public rally at the International Agri-Center in addition to the fundraiser.
Nunes said the luncheon will be a small event – and always was designed as such. The guess is around 250 people will attend, and of that, about 70 percent will be from the region’s agriculture community, and the remaining 30 percent are business leaders and other Republicans.
Harris, who is among the co-hosts, said he is thinking Trump “will make some comments sympathetic to letting farmers receive more water via a more balanced water policy with less damaging impacts on farmers and less regulatory restrictions on everything.”
In other words, he said, “turn on the pumps” in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Tulare County Republican Party Chairman James Henderson, a walnut grower and cattle rancher who will also attend the event, echoed the other attendees, saying “sensible solutions to bring more water to this Valley” are what he wants to hear from Trump.
“As a grower, this is super important to me,” he said. “There’s no hope at all from the other party. I wish there was, but there isn’t. We tried.”
Said Der Manouel, who is also chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County: “He’s the only candidate running that the No. 1 industry in Central California can count on. Hillary (Clinton) is not interested. We are not represented in the U.S. Senate at all on water. So, (Trump’s visit) is all about water.”
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Do immigrants who are in the US illegally commit more crimes?
Posted: Saturday, September 3, 2016 8:00 am
By Franco Ordonez McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to promote the idea that immigrants play an outsized role in crime. While up-to-date data on immigrants and crime is difficult to come by, and what is available is imperfect, a range of studies show little evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens.
Here’s what’s known:
Immigration and crime have had an inverse relationship over the years. Since the 1990s, immigration has risen but crime rates have dropped. The number of immigrants in the country illegally has more than tripled, from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. Meanwhile, violent crime — including aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder — has dropped 48 percent.
The majority of the 11 million people here illegally live in six states. Of those, California alone has about 2.4 million, 1 in 5 of the state’s residents. Texas ranked second, with 1.7 million, or 15 percent of its population. The other four states with large populations are Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Each hosts fewer than 1 million.
Immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated in California than U.S.-born adults are. Studies show U.S.-born men are incarcerated in California at a rate over 2 1/2 times greater than that of foreign-born men. Immigrants were incarcerated at a rate of 161 per 100,000 people and U.S.-born individuals were incarcerated at a rate of 259 per 100,000.
Immigration offenses, not violent crimes, account for most federal immigrant convictions, at 31 percent. Drug and traffic violations account for 30 percent. Assault composed 10.2 percent. Sex offenses made up 1.6 percent.It costs the United States billions to incarcerate immigrants. Government studies estimate it costs $1.6 billion annually to incarcerate 351,000 convicted and incarcerated immigrants in federal prisons and state facilities affiliated with the Department of Justice’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states and local governments for the cost of incarcerating immigrants here illegally.
Analysis: Trump's immigration proposals could be a nightmare for Texas
ANALYSIS: Immigration proposalscould devastate Texas economy
Lydia DePillis and Ileana Najarro
On Wednesday evening, fresh off a conciliatory meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took his theory that immigrants are the major source of America's ills to a new extreme.
"All energies of the federal government and the legislative process must now be focused on immigration security," Trump said. "Whether it's dangerous materials being smuggled across the border, terrorists entering on visas, or Americans losing their jobs to foreign workers, these are the problems we must now focus on fixing."
Trump's prescriptions for fixing those problems, however, would have a profoundly negative impact on the American economy - and Texas, in particular - where immigrants, here illegally and otherwise, build new homes, pick crops, clean hotel rooms, landscape suburban properties and spend their earnings to support a wide variety of businesses. Texas hosted 1.7 million unauthorized immigrants - about 80 percent of whom are from Mexico - or nearly 9 percent of the labor force in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy group.
Although Trump downplayed his previously outlined plan to immediately deport all those living in the United States illegally, he reiterated that none would be able to gain legal status without first leaving the country, and none would be able to work without legal status.
If enforcement went as planned, that would decimate the workforces of industries such construction, agriculture, hospitality and landscaping.
"It would have a devastating impact on the economy," says Charles Foster, an immigration attorney who also heads the Greater Houston Partnership's immigration task force and has advised several presidents on immigration policy, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama. "We have unemployment in Houston in the oilfield sector, but that doesn't mean those workers are going to go do a job in a restaurant. It would create a recession much, much bigger than the last recession of 2008 and 2009."
Employers, naturally, deny they have unauthorized immigrants working for them - that would be a crime. But workers have proven adept at obtaining forged documents, allowing businesses to at least look the other way. And some business people will speak in broad terms about what could result from Trump's proposals.
"It would be to our detriment as a state if they had a mass exodus of people that did not have legal status to work here," said Julie Parish, president of a Houston cleaning service called Home Keepers.
That's not just because of jobs that would go unfilled. It's also the housing that would go unoccupied, the cars that wouldn't be purchased, and the families that would be left unsupported if parents were sent out of the country.
Growth slowed in Arizona
In Arizona, after the state adopted a law cracking down on illegal immigration, the population of undocumented workers plunged by 40 percent and economic growth slowed significantly - 2 percent a year between 2007 and 2012, according to an analysis by Moody's Analytics for the Wall Street Journal.
It's true, as Donald Trump points out, undocumented immigrants come with some costs. They bear children, who go to state-run schools; they have health problems, and go to municipal hospitals; and they sometimes commit crimes, which requires local jails.
But immigrants in the county illegally are ineligible for most government benefits, like cash welfare and unemployment insurance. And while much of their income might be off the books, they still pay their share of sales and property taxes. The last time Texas took stock of the equation in 2006, the state comptroller found that illegal immigration created a net benefit to the state of $425.7 million a year.
Trump argued that deporting undocumented immigrants would free up jobs for Americans - "in particular," he argued, "African-American and Latino workers who are being shut out in this process so unfairly."
But Horace Brown, chair of the labor and industry committee of the Texas chapter of the NAACP, rejected that assertion, noting that minorities face far greater barriers to employment, such as racial discrimination, poverty, and inadequate public schools, than competition with immigrants in the country illegally.
"I don't see that deporting the immigrants would do anything to help African-Americans gain employment," he said. "What would help that is businesses creating jobs, and looking to hire minorities, whether they're immigrants or whomever."
In low-skilled fields, where the presence of undocumented immigrants is strongest, economists say it would usually not be possible for employers to offer a wage high enough to attract American workers (as Trump himself has argued, in defending his requests for foreign worker visas for his hotels in Florida). If they did, said Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, it would send some of the low costs for goods and services that Americans take for granted skyrocketing.
"Would I pay $20 for a tomato?" said Zavodny, who has studied immigration in Texas. "There's a wage people would work for. The problem is that it wouldn't be slightly higher."
Decline in immigrants
Lately, due in part to an aggressive deportation campaign mounted by the Obama administration, it seems there may not even be enough immigrants to fill jobs that Texas has available. The Mexican-born population in the United States peaked in 2007 and has fallen slowly since, according to Pew. In fact, the number of people moving back to Mexico exceeds those coming in - suggesting that Trump's proposal for a "an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall" wouldn't have much of an impact anyway.
That decline has left Texas' agricultural industry, in particular, complaining of a shortage of workers for labor-intensive products such as fruits and milk. "The farm labor situation in America is in crisis right now, and it's getting worse," said Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, which advocates for an expanded guest worker program that would allow businesses to hire foreigners temporarily. "Just sending all of the people home, without having them be able to come back and work, would be problematic."
The Farm Bureau is silent on what to do with the undocumented workers already here. But many economists, including those at the Dallas Federal Reserve Board, suggest that the best solution might be to grant them legal work status. Since undocumented immigrants can't speak up against labor violations for fear of deportation, and are usually paid in cash, it drives down wages for other workers, and deprives the state of tax revenues.
That's been frustrating to business people like Stan Marek, the chief executive of a construction company and a vocal supporter of legalization. As someone committed to above-board business practices, he could get outbid by a contractor who instead pays unauthorized immigrants under the table and fires them if they complain.
"If you have one contractor in one market who treats their workers as a disposable tool, everyone has to compete with them," Marek said.
It's true, allowing immigrants in the county illegally to bargain for better wages would raise labor costs. But not as much as kicking all of them out.
The Great Mexican Wall Deception: Trump's America Already Exists on the Border
It has for years, and the fingerprints all over it aren't Trump's but the Clintons'—both Bill's and Hillary's.
Todd Miller /TomDispatch
At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as “illegal entry” and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.
Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession—180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.
On and on it goes, day-in, day-out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 prison sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one reportconcluded it is now a “driving force in mass incarceration” in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era.
Sarabia takes a half-step forward. “My infant is four months old,” he tells the judge in Spanish. The baby was, he assures her, born with a heart condition and is a U.S. citizen. They have no option but to operate. This is the reason, he says, that “I’m here before you.” He pauses.
“I want to be with my child, who is in the United States.”
It’s clear that Sarabia would like to gesture emphatically as he speaks, but that’s difficult, thanks to the shackles that constrain him. Rateau fills her coffee cup as she waits for his comments to be translated into English.
Earlier in April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, still in the heat of his primary campaign, stated once again that he would build a massive concrete border wall towering 30 (or, depending on the moment, 55) feet high along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexican border. He would, he insisted, forceMexico to pay for the $8 billion to $10 billion barrier. Repeatedly throwing such red meat into the gaping jaws of nativism, he has over these last months also announced that he would create a major “deportation force,” repeatedly sworn that he would ban Muslims from entering the country (a position that he regularly revises), and most recently, that he would institute an “extreme vetting” process for foreign nationals arriving in the United States.
In June 2015, when he rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential campaign, among his initial promises was the building of a “great” and “beautiful” wall on the border. (“And no one builds walls better than me, believe me. I will do it very inexpensively. I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”) As he pulled that promise out of a hat with a magician’s flair, the actual history of the border disappeared. From then on in Election 2016, there was just empty desert and Donald Trump.
Suddenly, there hadn’t been a bipartisan government effort over the last quarter-century to put in place an unprecedented array of walls, detection systems, and guards for that southern border. In those years, the number of Border Patrol agents had, in fact, quintupled from 4,000 to more than 21,000, while Customs and Border Protection became the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country with more than 60,000 agents. The annual budget for border and immigration enforcement went from $1.5 to $19.5 billion, a more than 12-fold increase. By 2016, federal government funding of border and immigration enforcement added up to $5 billion more than that for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.
Operation Streamline, a cornerstone program in the “Consequence Delivery System,” part of a broader Border Patrol deterrence strategy for stopping undocumented immigration, is just one part of a vast enforcement-incarceration-deportation machine. The program is as no-nonsense as its name suggests. It's not The Wall, but it embodies the logic of the wall: either you crossed “illegally” or you didn’t. It doesn’t matter why, or whether you lost your job, or if you’ve had to skip meals to feed your kids. It doesn’t matter if your house was flooded or the drought dried up your fields. It doesn’t matter if you’re running for your life from drug cartel gunmen or the very army and police forces that are supposed to protect you.
This system was what Ignacio Sarabia faced a few months ago in a Tucson court. His tragedy is one that plays out so many times daily a mere seven blocks from where I live.
Before I tell you how the judge responded to his plea, it’s important to understand Sarabia’s journey, and that of so many thousands like him who end up in this federal courthouse day after day. As he pleads to be with his newborn son, his voice cracking with emotion, his story catches the already Trumpian-style of border enforcement—both the pain and suffering it has caused, and the strategy and massive build-up behind it—in ways that the campaign rhetoric of both parties and the reporting on it doesn’t. As reporters chase their tails attempting to explain Trump’s wild and often unfounded claims and declarations, the on-the-ground border reality goes unreported. Indeed, one of the greatest “secrets” of the 2016 election campaign (though it should be common knowledge) is that the border wall already exists. It has for years and the fingerprints all over it aren't Donald Trump's but the Clintons', both Bill's and Hillary's.
The Wall That Already Exists
Twenty-one years before Trump’s wall-building promise (and seven years before the 9/11 attacks), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to replace the chain link fence that separated Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico from Nogales, Arizona, in the United States with a wall built of rusty landing mats from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Although there had been various half-hearted attempts at building border walls throughout the twentieth century, this was the first true effort to build a barrier of what might now be called Trumpian magnitude.
That rusty, towering wall snaked through the hills and canyons of northern Sonora and southern Arizona forever deranging a world that, given cross-border familial and community ties, then considered itself one. At the time, who could have known that the strategy the first wall embodied would still be the model for today’s massive system of exclusion.
In 1994, the threat wasn’t “terrorism.” In part, the call for more hardened, militarized borders came in response, among other things, to a never-ending drug war. It alsocame from U.S. officials who anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexicans after the implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, ironically, was aimed at eliminating barriers to trade and investment across North America.
And the expectations of those officials proved well justified. The ensuingupheavals in Mexico, as analyst Marco Antonio Velázquez Navarrete explained to me, were like the aftermath of a war or natural disaster. Small farmers couldn’t compete against highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. Mexican small business owners were bankrupted by the likes of Walmart, Sam’s Club, and other corporate powers. Mining by foreign companies extended across vast swaths of Mexico, causing territorial conflicts and poisoning the land. The unprecedented and desperate migration that followed came up against what might be considered the other side of the Clinton doctrine of open trade: walls, increased border agents, increased patrolling, and new surveillance technologies meant to cut off traditional crossing spots in urban areas like El Paso, San Diego, Brownsville, and Nogales.
“This administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders,” President Bill Clinton said in 1996. “We are increasing border controls by fifty percent.”
Over the next 20 years, that border apparatus would expand exponentially in terms of personnel, resources, and geographic reach, but the central strategy of the 1990s (labeled “Prevention Through Deterrence”) remained the same. The ever-increasing border policing and militarization funneled desperate migrants into remote locations like the Arizona desert where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees in the summer heat.
The first U.S. border strategy memorandum in 1994 predicted the tragic future we now have. “Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger,” it stated.
Twenty years later, more than 6,000 remains have been found in the desert borderlands of the United States. Hundreds of families continue to search for disappeared loved ones. The Colibri Center for Human Rights has records for more than 2,500 missing people last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In other words, that border has become a graveyard of bones and sadness.
Despite all the attention given to the wall and the border this election season, neither the Trump nor Clinton campaigns have mentioned “Prevention Through Deterrence,” nor the subsequent border deaths. Not once. The same goes for the establishment media that can't stop talking about Trump’s wall. There has been little or no mention of what border groups have long called a “humanitarian crisis” of deaths that have increased five-fold over the last decade, thanks, in part, to a wall that already exists. (If the people dying were Canadians or Europeans, attention would, of course, be paid.)
Although wall construction began during Bill Clinton’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. At the time, Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-introduced bill, along with 26 other Democrats. "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” she commented at one 2015 campaign event, "and I do think you have to control your borders."
The 2006 wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that homeland security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security. In this way, he allowed Border Patrol bulldozers to desecrate protected wilderness and sacred land.
“Imagine a bulldozer parking in your family graveyard, turning up bones,” Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., of the Tohono O’odham Nation (a Native American tribe whose original land was cut in half by the U.S. border) told Congress in 2008. “This is our reality.”
With a price tag of, on average, $4 million a mile, these border walls, barriers, and fences have proven to be one of the costliest border infrastructure projects undertaken by the United States. For private border contractors, on the other hand, it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. In 2011, for example, the DHS granted Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, one of our “warrior corporations,” a $24.4 million upkeep contract.
In Tucson in early August, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence looked out over a sea of red “Make America Great Again” caps and t-shirts and said, “We will secure our border. Donald Trump will build that wall.” He would be met with roaring applause, even though his statement made no sense at all.
Should Trump actually win, how could he build something that already exists? Indeed, for all practical purposes, the “Great Wall” that Trump talks about may, by January 2017, be as antiquated as the Great Wall of China given the new high-tech surveillance methods now coming on the market. These are being developed in a major way and on a regular basis by a booming border techno-surveillance industry.
The twenty-first-century border is no longer just about walls; it’s aboutbiometrics and drones. It’s about a “layered approach to national security,” given that, as former Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher has put it, “the international boundary is no longer the first or last line of defense, but one of many.” Hillary Clinton’s promise of “comprehensive immigration reform”—to be introduced within 100 days of her entering the Oval Office—is a much more reliable guide than Trump’s wall to our grim immigration future. If her bill follows the pattern of previous ones, as it surely will, an increasingly weaponized, privatized, high-tech, layered border regime, increasingly dangerous to future Ignacio Sarabias, will continue to be a priority of the federal government.
On the surface, there are important differences between Clinton’s and Trump’s immigration platforms. Trump’s wildly xenophobic comments and declarations are well known, and Clinton claims that she will, among other things, fight for family unity for those forcibly separated by deportation and enact “humane” immigration enforcement. Yet deep down, the policies of the two candidates are far more similar than they might at first appear.
Navigating Donald Trump’s Borderlands Now
That April day, only one bit of information about Ignacio Sarabia’s border crossing to reunite with his wife and newborn child was available at the Tucson federal courthouse. He had entered the United States “near Nogales.” Most likely, he circumvented the wall first started during the Clinton administration, like most immigrants do, by making his way through the potentially treacherous canyons that surround that border town.
If his experience was typical, he probably didn’t have enough water or food, and suffered some physical woe like large, painful blisters on his feet. Certainly, he wasn’t atypical in trying to reunite with loved ones. After all, more than 2.5 million people have been expelled from the country by the Obama administration, an average annual deportation rate of close to 400,000 people. This was, by the way, only possible thanks to laws signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 and meant to burnish his legacy. They vastly expanded the government’s deportation powers.
In 2013 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out 72,000 deportations of parents who said that their children were U.S.-born. And many of them are likely to try to cross that dangerous southern border again to reunite with their families.
The enforcement landscape Sarabia faced has changed drastically since that first wall was built in 1994. The post-9/11 border is now both a war zone and a showcase for corporate surveillance. It represents, according to Border Patrol agent Felix Chavez, an “unprecedented deployment of resources,” any of which could have led to Sarabia’s capture. It could have been one of the hundreds of remote video or mobile surveillance systems, or one of the more than 12,000 implanted motion sensors that set off alarms in hidden operational control rooms where agents stare into large monitors.
It could have been the spy towers made by the Israeli company Elbit Systems that spotted him, or Predator B drones built by General Atomics, or VADER radar systems manufactured by the defense giant Northrup Grumman that, like so many similar technologies, have been transported from the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq to the U.S. border.
If the comprehensive immigration reform that Hillary Clinton pledges to introduce as president is based on the already existing bipartisan Senate package, as has been indicated, then this corporate-enforcement landscape will be significantly bolstered and reinforced. There will be 19,000 more Border Patrol agents in roving patrols throughout “border enforcement jurisdictions” that extend up to 100 miles inland. More F-150 trucks and all-terrain vehicles will rumble through and, at times, tear up the desert. There will be more Blackhawk helicopters, flying low, their propellers dusting groups of scattering migrants, many of them already lost in the vast, parched desert.
If such a package passes the next Congress, up to $46 billion could be slated to go into more of all of this, including funding for hundreds of miles of new walls. Corporate vendors are salivating at the thought of such a future and in a visible state of elation at homeland security tradeshows across the globe.
The 2013 bill that passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives also included a process of legalization for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States. It maintained programs that will grant legal residence for children who came to the United States at a young age and their parents. Odds are that a comprehensive reform bill in a Clinton presidency would be similar.
Included in that bill was, of course, funding to bolster Operation Streamline. The Evo A. DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson would then have the capacity to prosecute triple the number of people it deals with at present.
After taking a sip from her coffee and listening to the translation of Ignacio Sarabia’s comments, the magistrate judge looks at him and says she’s sorry for his predicament.
Personally, I’m mesmerized by his story as I sit on a wooden bench at the back of the court. I have a child the same age as his son. I can’t imagine his predicament. Not once while he talks does it leave my mind that my child might even have the same birthday as his.
The judge then looks directly at Sarabia and tells him that he can't just come here "illegally,” that he has to find a “legal way” (highly unlikely, given the criminal conviction that will now be on his record). “Your son,” she says, “when he gets better, and his mother, can visit you where you are in Mexico.”
“Otherwise,” she adds, he'll be “visiting you in prison”—not exactly, she points out, an appealing scenario: seeing your father in a prison where he will be “locked away for a very long time.”
She then sentences the nine men standing side by side in front of her for periods ranging from 60 days to 180 days for the crime of crossing an international border without proper documents. Sarabia receives a 60-day sentence.
Next, armed guards from G4S—the private contractor that once employed Omar Mateen (the Pulse nightclub killer) and has a lucrative quarter-billion-dollar border contract with Customs and Border Protection—will transport each of the shackled prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Florence, Arizona. It is there that Sarabia will think about his child’s endangered heart from behind layers of coiled razor wire, while the corporation that runs the prison makes $124 per day for incarcerating him.
Indeed, Donald Trump’s United States doesn’t await his presidency. It’s already laid out before us, and one place it’s happening every single day is in Tucson, only seven blocks from my house.
Todd Miller is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights Books). He writes on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places. Follow him on twitter @memomiller and read more of his work at toddwmiller.wordpress.com.
"A Day Without A Mexican" (Full Movie)
POLITICO California Playbook: TRUMP doubles down on deportation -- ‘Angry reincarnation of Pete Wilson’ -- DIAPER vouchers
By Carla Marinucci (email@example.com) and Andrew Weber (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Buenos dias and Happy Thursday, Golden State!
THE BUZZ -- RUN FOR THE BORDER: California has more at stake than any other state in the nation with regard to Donald Trump's hardline proposals on immigration Wednesday night in Arizona. Why? The Golden State is the home to the country's largest undocumented immigrant population -- according to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 2.4 million, who comprise 6.3 percent of the state's population.
-- CALIFORNIA IMPACTS? -- Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN/New Policy Institute, told POLITICO last night: "It is hard to imagine a speech more hostile to the immigration path charted by Californians over the past generation. Tonight Trump sounded like an angry reincarnation of Pete Wilson, and that should alarm a state that long ago choose diversity and tolerance as its calling card."
-- 'OUTRAGE,' REACTION FROM CA LATINO CAUCUS on Trump's visit to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto: "After Trump called Mexicans rapists and criminals, Peña Nieto inviting him to Mexico and standing with him is a slap in the face to the millions of California's Latinos, especially those of Mexican descent."
-- More from Assemblymember Luis Alejo, D-Salinas -- "Unfortunately, Peña Nieto gained nothing and succeeded only in lending legitimacy to a man who has made hateful and offensive remarks about Mexican immigrants, women, disabled people, veterans, communities of color, Muslims and just about everyone else under the sun. We cannot imagine what he must have been thinking."
-- Rep. Loretta Sanchez, candidate for U.S. Senate, to POLITICO via email: "The votes are in the US, not a foreign country, Donald Trump needs to repair damage he has done with Hispanics in the U.S. After insulting Mexico, the Mexican people, and Latino Americans from the first day of his campaign, Donald Trump's trip to Mexico is beyond hypocrisy."
-- DEPORTATION? Did Trump's policy address answer the question on whether the undocumented - in California and the estimated 11 million nationwide -- can stay:
"For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above. Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established.
We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty."
-- AND: There will be a "deportation task force" and "ideological certification" to determine which immigrants are suitable for return.
-- WHAT ABOUT THE WALL? Trump:"Mexico is going to pay for it..They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall."
-- AL CONTRARIO: Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN: "Al inicio de la conversación con Donald Trump dejé claro que México no pagará por el muro." (At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.)"
-- LATimes' Noah Bierman, Tracy Wilkinson and Mexico City bureau's Kate Linthicum roundup of the Trump trip: "Donald Trump showcased his flair for the dramatic spectacle again Wednesday, flying his unpredictable campaign across the southern border for a hastily arranged summit with the president of a country he has repeatedly maligned.
"The move was stunning for a nominee whose presidential run began with harsh denunciations of Mexicans, whom he called "rapists" when he announced his candidacy, and whose slogan-ready pledge to build a border wall includes the improbable idea that Mexico will pay for it."
-- TRUMP 'TONE' A PROBLEM -- GOP strategist Bettina Inclan, a veteran of California campaigns and the Republican National Committee's first national director of Hispanic Outreach, told CNN Wednesday that regarding Donald Trump "the tone and rhetoric of his campaign has made me very uncomfortable." Her advice: "Stop insulting people that he needs to win over and start focusing on positive policies, telling us how he's going to make America great again."
-- "Donald Trump still has a path to victory, but it's a tough one, USC/L.A. Times poll shows," by LATImes' David Lauter: "Although he trails in nearly all national surveys and polls of most battleground states, Donald Trump still has a potential route to victory, albeit a difficult one that would require him to coax many people who sat out the last election to vote this time around, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak tracking poll finds."
-- TWEET OF THE DAY -- Movie Director Rob Reiner @robreiner: "Clearly we're not sending our best to Mexico. We're sending liars. We're sending narcissists. We're sending sociopaths."
Young Hispanic People Are Squeezed Between Gangs and Cops in California's Central Valley
On a clear Valentine's Day afternoon two years ago in the rural town of Modesto in California's Central Valley, Jesse Sebourn and Jeanette Robles were hanging out outside an apartment complex when they decided to fuck with some graffiti memorializing the murder of two Norteño gang members about a year earlier.
A couple of alleged Northerners—the term for those sympathizing with the Norteño cause but not fully initiated into the gang—who lived there were not amused. They decided to chase down and pound the outsiders.
After enduring a mild ass-kicking, Sebourn called his dad, Michael, an ex–Aryan Brotherhood member. Together they rounded up a posse of nine—including five women, some of whom allegedly have ties to the Sureños, a rival street gang. By then it was dark. After buying some booze and drinking it in a nearby park, the motley crew allegedly went on a hunt for Northerners.
It wasn't long before they found one. According to prosecutors, the posse jumped out of their vehicles and attacked Erick Gomez, who was with his pregnant girlfriend.
What happened next depends on whom you believe. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Brennan, argued at trial that the group kicked and punched Gomez, that Dalia Mendoza stabbed him at least three times, and that Giovani Barocio then shot Gomez, hitting him in the heart with a bullet and killing him. "You are my witnesses—I earned my stripes," the shooter allegedly said, referring to earning a place as a Sureño.
Sebourn's defense attorneys maintain that he and his father were not at the scene and have raised questions about the legitimacy of the North-South beef. They have also argued that Jesse's mental disability, acquired at birth, rendered him incapable of understanding that he was advancing gang objectives. The other defense lawyers and their clients offer varied accounts of who was actually doing the stabbing and beating. Finally, famous defense attorney J. Tony Serra questioned Mendoza's account of the events and argued that it could not be trusted because she cut a deal with the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence.
But with Gomez dead and Barocio, the alleged shooter, on the lam—he's believed to have fled to Mexico—the remaining defendants were tried for months in Modesto, charged by the DA's office with murder, along with a gang enhancement charge that made life sentences a plausible outcome. The trial resulted in a hung jury.
The murder, and the the hundreds of other gang-related incidents like it, are the backdrop to the national attention currently being thrust on California's record drought and its struggling agriculture industry, much of which is located in the Central Valley. The small cities—Modesto is home to about 200,000 people—towns, and farms that sprawl across the valley produce a sizable percentage of the nation's fruits and vegetables. But in some of the region's minority communities, young people suffer from hopelessness desperate enough to drive them to join criminal organizations run by men living in prisons hundreds of miles away.
The Sebourn case centers around the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection (STEP) Act, a law passed in 1988 that sought to curb the growing problem of gang violence. It's a controversial measure, with legal scholars questioning its efficacy and arguing that minorities are disproportionately targeted for sentences that are greater than their crimes would normally warrant.
The Central Valley region has an inferiority complex, one longtime resident told me, and it's not hard to understand why. The swath of land includes the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley and is home to 3.5 million people. The region has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in California, smog that's among the worst in the nation, and endemic poverty, with the unemployment rate across the region sitting about at about double the national average.
No wonder there's a looming specter here of gang-related crime, which experts often attribute to poverty. Reformed gangster Jesse De La Cruz is one of those experts. Now in his 60s, De La Cruz retired from criminal life after being released from Folsom Prison in 1996. He kicked his heroin habit, got a doctorate—his thesis was on the sociology of gangs—and currently makes a living as an expert witness testifying in gang trials. "There's no doubt that we have a gang problem," De La Cruz says. "But gangs are born from hopelessness, from poverty, from broken families."
Stanislaus County, where Modesto is located, is traditionally a Republican place, and Modesto has a population that is about 40 percent Latino. Of course, the widespread practice of employing undocumented immigrants from Central and South America has its own consequences, such as child labor, poor working conditions, and inescapable poverty for new immigrants.
Latino gangs operating in the Central Valley can be divided loosely by whether members claim to be Northerners (Norteños in Spanish) or Southerners (Sureños). Sources I spoke with for this story contradicted one another about the distinction between a Northerner and a Southerner and full Norteños and Sureños. The English phrasing may refer to sympathizers and not gang members, but much like the rest of the underworld, truth is fluid and elusive.
It's clear that the rupture between Latinos living in Northern and Southern Californiabegan in state prison during the 1960s. While doing a bid at Duel Vocational Institution, some gangsters from Los Angeles decided to unify the gang members doing time, calling themselves La Eme (or the Mexican Mafia) in order to protect themselves from other inmates, who organized by race. But the alliance didn't last. Underlying tension between the Northerners and Southerners exploded after a murder over a pair of shoes in San Quentin; the Northerners formed Nuestra Familia (Our Family), the Southerners remained La Eme, and the two groups have been quarreling ever since.
Although the Nuestra Familia (Norteño) and Mexican Mafia (Sureño) are primarily prison gangs, members operate on the outside as well. Usually, senior Nuestra Familia members act as regional managers, or oversee cities, resolving disputes between members and managing the drug shipments that make up a significant portion of their revenue. It's important to remember that Norteño and Sureño gangs—there are dozens, if not hundreds, of local chapters in California—aren't by default part of the prison gangs. That requires a separate initiation. In De La Cruz's case, he says, that meant being ordered to shank someone in state prison.
Brennan, 49, the lead prosecutor in the case against the Sebourns and their alleged co-conspirators, is a fearsome attorney. Packing a semiautomatic pistol for protection, he describes his lifelong passion for the law with a palpable intensity.
"It's when the gang member commits a violent crime [that] I lose concern for rehabilitation, I lose concern for diversion, because now they've hurt somebody, they've crossed the line," Brennan tells me in the Stanislaus County District Attorney's offices on Twelfth Street in Modesto's downtown. "Once that line is crossed, the hardcore prosecution comes, and I've been doing that since 1999."
A football player in high school, and a veteran—he was military police for six years—Brennan's work on gangs in Stanislaus County has attracted the eyes of the federal government, which swore him in as a special assistant US Attorney in 2008, a position that allows him to take on gang leadership thanks to extra resources. Federal prosecutions generally carry longer sentences and can also mean doing time in other states, which—theoretically, at least—makes it harder for gang leaders to control their turf from behind bars.
Brennan doesn't work alone. One of his investigators is Lieutenant Froilan Mariscal. A Modesto native, Mariscal says that he grew up in the Deep South Side neighborhood—a primarily Latino community, and one of the poorest parts of town. I ask the 37-year-old son of Mexican immigrants why he didn't turn out like many of the troubled young people who join gangs. "Luckily, I had a good household," he replies. "Both my parents were strict with us and showed me the right way of living. Unfortunately, a lot of these kids who get involved in gangs have absent parents, or just were born into the gang lifestyle. That wasn't in my family—they were hardworking people."
Mariscal says that gang crime is holding steady, unlike most violent crime, which has been declining in California and across the nation for years. "The only time there are spikes and dips is when gangs are lying low, when they know the heat is on them," he says.
Brennan credits Mariscal for being crucial in obtaining a legal mechanism called a gang injunction in Deep South Side in 2009. An injunction is a civil action—the city essentially sues the gang—that makes otherwise legal behaviors associated with gang activity punishable with jail time. According to Mariscal, the injunction typically names specific gang members, who are served with a notice informing them of the new rules. For the 43 alleged gangsters named in the legal proceedings, that means a curfew of 10 PM, among other restrictions.
"The gang was so entrenched in that area, and had been that way for two decades, our District Attorney [Birgit Fladager] wanted to use some out-of-the-box thinking," Mariscal explains. "What else can we do to fix this? Because it had been so bad for so long. The gang injunction is a tool."
Injunctions are controversial because of the restrictions they place on the alleged gang members, especially when it comes to the curfew. "I have real problems with the gang injunction," local defense attorney Robert Chase told the Modesto Bee in 2012. "It applies severe restrictions on these young men without any real due process of law." Residents told the newspaper they had mixed feelings—some claiming the injunction had a noticeable effect on their lives, while others were afraid of where it was all going.
"Look around you, it's like the Third World, man. People have nothing." —Jesse De La Cruz
I visited the neighborhood with De La Cruz, the gang expert. Although he didn't grow up there, his boyhood home was remarkably similar. In a thought-provoking memoir entitledDetoured, De La Cruz chronicles his birth in Texas to an undocumented immigrant mother, and a father who was not all that interested in raising him. De La Cruz contracted polio before he was a boy, the virus leaving him with a paralyzed foot and a limp.
After his family moved to California in search of better work and to escape from Texas's radical racial segregation, De La Cruz slowly got to know other guys mixed up with the Norteños, and the prison gang that they pay tax to and take orders from, Nuestra Familia.
After 30 years in and out of the state's prison system, De La Cruz walked out of Folsom's gates determined to stop using heroin. Ambitious to this day, he now says he intends to go to law school as well. But dropping out of Nuestra Familia led to another member of the gang killing his brother in retaliation, he says.
Standing in the tiny parking lot of a corner liquor store, I ask De La Cruz about Deep South Side. He tells me that gang involvement isn't about poverty, but rather the conditions that poverty creates. "It's about hopelessness, bro," he says with a thick California-Spanish accent. "Look around you, it's like the Third World, man. People have nothing."
His point is obvious. Looking in all four directions from the intersection, there are no sidewalks along the cracked asphalt streets, while chickens and roosters are audible all over the place. The houses are small bungalows, many falling apart. A farmer with a pitchfork yells something at me as I examine graffiti of an Aztec eagle, an icon claimed by Norteños but also the symbol of the United Farm Workers, a powerful labor union in the state.
When De La Cruz goes into the store for an ice cream sandwich, he ends up chatting with the Mexican-Yemenese guy named Sam manning the cash register. After De La Cruz mentions his red hat—the Northerners claim red as one of their colors, and the Southerners blue—Sam says that he's sporting the red hat because if he doesn't, he's going to get fucked with. Still, he swears that he's not in a gang.
I'm sitting in a cramped computer lab at the Maddux Youth Center with Ben Wheeler, who runs a group called Seeking Safety. It's part of aftercare for juvenile hall kids, a program designed around recently released youths' emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. A collaboration between Youth for Christ, a religious organization that aims to bring spirituality to kids who are looking for it, and a jobs initiative called Work for Success, the group offers a regular time for at-risk young men to express themselves in an emotionally safe space. The participants, often, have never lived with families that provide emotional safety, and some claim to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The group works through a packet that addresses coping skills, grounding, and strategies to deal with anger. The religious content is light, but definitely at the core of the teaching material. At the end of the class, the seven participants lower their heads while Wheeler says a prayer.
Afterwards, I sit down with Wheeler and a former Norteño named Daniel, who describes how his parents hadn't really been interested in raising him; for the most part his uncles were responsible for his upbringing. His uncles, he says, used to get all the boys to fight one another—it was fun for them to watch the youngsters beat each other up while they watched. As a result, Daniel has trouble feeling compassion for anyone but his kids.\
When I ask why he dropped out of the Norteños, Daniel explains that it's because the gang uses young, ignorant people to achieve their own ends—and that they don't care about the collateral damage that they cause.
"The real big issue that I was able to see, and a lot of others were able to see, was that the gangs initially had a purpose," Daniel explains. As he sees it, that purpose was to protect Latinos serving time from the other inmates, and enrich themselves in the process. "[Nuestra Familia] served that purpose, but a lot of those guys ended up in Pelican Bay [State Prison] doing indeterminate [time], they have nothing coming, they can't see their families anymore. But a lot of these guys still take care of their families, they buy houses for their families. How are they doing this? They're doing this by exploiting other people, other youngsters. Keeping the cause alive, so it can benefit them."
One of Daniel's uncles tattooed the four dots on his hand, denoting that he was a Norteño (they claim the number 14, which the four dots refer to). That, along with associating with other gang members in the neighborhood, could theoretically provide local law enforcement with enough evidence to add him to the injunction—or add gang enhancements to any prison sentences he gets slapped with in the future.
"The law leaves it up to the gang experts to identify gang members," Mariscal says, adding that he must be able to demonstrate that a supposed gangster meets two of tencriteria the county uses to prove membership, like wearing colors certain colors, frequenting "gang areas,"or being seen flashing gang signs.
"It's not black-and-white, though," Mariscal insists. "Just because someone is walking down the street wearing red, doesn't mean they're a gang member... We have to be able to articulate why they fit these criteria. We can come up with a gang member in different ways. There's more than one way to do it."
Gang problems are the reason Brennan doesn't offer plea bargains— increasingly common in recent years—to most gang members. He tells me that he doesn't believe it's fair to the general public to let violent gangsters avoid justice.
Of course, defense attorneys in the Sebourn case don't agree with Brennan's approach. "A prosecutor has a duty to administer justice," Greg Bentley wrote in a text message when I asked him about the case. "In our modern-day criminal court system, this includes ensuring voluntary guilty pleas with appropriate sentences are entered by defendant through the plea bargaining process with an eye towards public safety, but also rehabilitation for those who commit crimes, especially when dealing with young people who obviously made poor life choices."
The prosecution against Sebourn and his alleged conspirators cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $130,000 to rent a nearby office space that was large enough to hold all of the defendants, attorneys, and bailiffs. Meanwhile, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department assigned additional deputies to secure the block around the courtroom. This prosecution and others have driven the county's budget for publicly funded defense attorneys $700,000 in the red, for the second year in a row.
Now the DA's office is retrying the case.
"Ignoring [the reality of plea bargains] creates a significant risk that taxpayer money will be wasted in trials like Sebourn's where even those defendants who confessed are not convicted," Bentley wrote.
Sebourn's retrial is likely not going to take place until 2016, leaving those in custody—the shooter remains at large—locked up until that date. (At the moment, about 75 percent of the 1,060 inmates being held in county jail are still awaiting trial.)
Meanwhile, Brennan, the prosecutor, is moving on. After completing the litigation on an unrelated murder case, he says he'll be going to work for the State Attorney's General Office—a role that will allow him to continue working on gang prosecutions. He adds that in the long run, he wants to be an educator, training county prosecutors on how to best defeat gangs in court. But even if he won't be around to litigate the case, Brennan's office plans to charge De La Cruz with perjury for allegedly lying while testifying about the gangs wrapped up in the Modesto murder.
"It was crystal-clear, and the charges will be based on sworn testimony in a jury trial as it appears on the transcript," Brennan argues.
"I didn't testify to anything that's perjury," De La Cruz insists. "I testified to my opinion of the case. He cannot do it." Outside of Modesto, De La Cruz says he's in the middle of working on another case about a gang-related murder. The kid who did the deed received more than 100 years in state prison, a sentence De La Cruz doesn't believe is just.
But guys like Daniel, still living in the same neighborhood, dealing with the same problems, face an uncertain future. With few social programs available, and the road ahead littered with challenges, young people here are exploited foot soldiers in the middle of a prolonged battle between criminal organizations controlled by hardened gangsters locked in solitary confinement. On the other side is the justice system, which, by design, focuses on locating and punishing people that fall within its wide net. And by the time young people end up in a courtroom facing off against Brennan, or other prosecutors for murder, in some ways it's already too late. The circumstances and context that put them on that road are irrelevant. All that matters now is that they're wrapped up in what the law says is gang warfare.