Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Illegal - Alien CRIME WAVE - Is Amnesty The Answser? OUR DEFENDED BORDERS?

Ask yourself why you never hear the LA RAZA DEMS ever speak out about this! LIST OF LA RAZA DEMS AT BOTTOM. SEND THEM A COPY OF THIS!

Heather Mac Donald

Some of the most violent criminals at large today are illegal aliens. Yet in cities where the crime these aliens commit is highest, the police cannot use the most obvious tool to apprehend them: their immigration status. 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.

The LAPD’s ban on immigration enforcement mirrors bans in immigrant-saturated cities around the country, from New York and Chicago to San Diego, Austin, and Houston. These “sanctuary
policies” generally prohibit city employees, including the cops, from reporting immigration violations to federal authorities.

Such laws testify to the sheer political power of immigrant lobbies, a power so irresistible that police officials shrink from even mentioning the illegal-alien crime wave. “We can’t even talk
about it,” says a frustrated LAPD captain. “People are afraid of a backlash from Hispanics.” Another LAPD commander in a predominantly Hispanic, gang-infested district sighs: “I would get a firestorm of criticism if I talked about [enforcing the immigration law against illegals].” Neither captain would speak for attribution.

But however pernicious in themselves, sanctuary rules are a symptom of a much broader disease: the nation’s near-total loss of control over immigration policy. Fifty years ago, immigration policy might have driven immigration numbers, but today the numbers drive policy. The nonstop increase of immigration is reshaping the language and the law to dissolve any distinction between legal and illegal aliens and, ultimately, the very idea of national borders.

It is a measure of how topsy-turvy the immigration environment has become that to ask police officials about the illegal-alien crime problem feels like a gross faux pas, not done in polite company. And a police official asked to violate this powerful taboo will give a strangled response—or, as in the case of a New York deputy commissioner, break off communication altogether. Meanwhile, millions of illegal aliens work, shop, travel, and commit crimes in plain view, utterly secure in their de facto immunity from the immigration law.

Police commanders may not want to discuss, much less respond to, the illegal-alien crisis, but its magnitude for law enforcement is startling. Some examples:

• In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens.

• A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia,
the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County. The gang
has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.

• The leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002, says former assistant U.S. attorney Luis Li. Francisco Martinez, a Mexican Mafia member and an illegal alien, controlled the gang from prison, while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation.

Good luck finding any reference to such facts in official crime analysis. The LAPD and the L.A. city attorney recently requested an injunction against drug trafficking in Hollywood, targeting the 18th Street Gang and the “non–gang members” who sell drugs in Hollywood for the gang. Those non–gang members are virtually all illegal Mexicans, smuggled into the country by a ring organized by 18th Street bigs. The Mexicans pay off their transportation debts to the gang by selling drugs; many soon realize how lucrative that line of work is and stay in the business.

Cops and prosecutors universally know the immigration status of these non-gang “Hollywood dealers,” as the city attorney calls them, but the gang injunction is assiduously silent on the matter. And if a Hollywood officer were to arrest an illegal dealer (known on the street as a “border brother”) for his immigration status, or even notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service (since early 2003, absorbed into the new Department of Homeland Security), he would face severe discipline for violating Special Order 40, the city’s sanctuary policy.

L.A.’s sanctuary law and all others like it contradict a key 1990s policing discovery: the Great Chain of Being in criminal behavior. Pick up a law-violator for a “minor” crime, and you might well prevent a major crime: enforcing graffiti and turnstile-jumping laws nabs you murderers and robbers. Enforcing known immigration violations, such as reentry following deportation, against known felons, would be even more productive. LAPD officers recognize illegal deported gang members all the time—flashing gang signs at court hearings for rival gangbangers, hanging out on the corner, or casing a target. These illegal returnees are, simply by being in the country after deportation, committing a felony (in contrast to garden-variety illegals on their first trip to the U.S., say, who are only committing a misdemeanor). “But if I see a deportee from the Mara Salvatrucha [Salvadoran prison] gang crossing the street, I know I can’t touch him,” laments a Los Angeles gang officer. Only if the deported felon has given the officer some other reason to stop him, such as an observed narcotics sale, can the cop accost him—but not for the immigration felony.

The stated reasons for sanctuary policies are that they encourage illegal-alien crime victims and witnesses to cooperate with cops without fear of deportation, and that they encourage illegals to take advantage of city services like health care and education (to whose maintenance few illegals have contributed a single tax dollar, of course). There has never been any empirical verification that sanctuary laws actually accomplish these goals—and no one has ever suggested not enforcing drug laws, say, for fear of intimidating drug-using crime victims. But in any case, this official rationale could be honored by limiting police use of immigration laws to some subset of immigration violators: deported felons, say, or repeat criminal offenders whose immigration status police already know.

The real reason cities prohibit their cops and other employees from immigration reporting and enforcement is, like nearly everything else in immigration policy, the numbers. The immigrant population has grown so large that public officials are terrified of alienating it, even at the expense of ignoring the law and tolerating violence. In 1996, a breathtaking Los Angeles Times exposé on the 18th Street Gang, which included descriptions of innocent bystanders being murdered by laughing cholos (gang members), revealed the rate of illegal-alien membership in the gang. In response to the public outcry, the Los Angeles City Council ordered the police to reexamine Special Order 40. You would have thought it had suggested reconsidering Roe v. Wade. A police commander warned the council: “This is going to open a significant, heated debate.” City Councilwoman Laura Chick put on a brave front: “We mustn’t be afraid,” she declared firmly.

But of course immigrant pandering trumped public safety. Law-abiding residents of gang-infested neighborhoods may live in terror of the tattooed gangbangers dealing drugs, spraying graffiti, and shooting up rivals outside their homes, but such anxiety can never equal a
politician’s fear of offending Hispanics. At the start of the reexamination process, LAPD deputy chief John White had argued that allowing the department to work closely with the INS would give cops another tool for getting gang members off the streets. Trying to build a homicide case, say, against an illegal gang member is often futile, he explained, since witnesses fear deadly retaliation if they cooperate with the police. Enforcing an immigration violation would allow the cops to lock up the murderer right now, without putting a witness’s life at risk.

But six months later, Deputy Chief White had changed his tune: “Any broadening of the policy gets us into the immigration business,” he asserted. “It’s a federal law-enforcement issue, not a local law-enforcement issue.” Interim police chief Bayan Lewis told the L.A. Police ommission: “It is not the time. It is not the day to look at Special Order 40.”

Nor will it ever be, as long as immigration numbers continue to grow. After their brief moment of truth in 1996, Los Angeles politicians have only grown more adamant in defense of Special Order 40. After learning that cops in the scandal-plagued Rampart Division had cooperated with the INS to try to uproot murderous gang members from the community, local politicians threw a fit, criticizing district commanders for even allowing INS agents into their station houses. In
turn, the LAPD strictly disciplined the offending officers. By now, big-city police chiefs are unfortunately just as determined to defend sanctuary policies as the politicians who appoint them; not so the rank and file, however, who see daily the benefit that an immigration tool would bring. But even were immigrant-saturated cities to discard their sanctuary policies and start enforcing immigration violations where public safety demands it, the resource-starved immigration authorities couldn’t handle the overwhelming additional workload.

The chronic shortage of manpower to oversee, and detention space to house, aliens as they await their deportation hearings (or, following an order of removal from a federal judge, their actual deportation) has forced immigration officials to practice a constant triage. Long ago, the feds stopped trying to find and deport aliens who had “merely” entered the country illegally through stealth or fraudulent documents. Currently, the only types of illegal aliens who run any risk of catching federal attention are those who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” (a particularly egregious crime) or who have been deported following conviction for an
aggravated felony and who have reentered (an offense punishable with 20 years in jail).

But even when immigration officials actually arrest someone, and even if a judge issues a final deportation order (usually after years of litigation and appeals), they rarely have the manpower to put the alien on a bus or plane and take him across the border. Second alternative: detain him pending removal. Again, inadequate space and staff. In the early 1990s, for example, 15 INS officers were in charge of the deportation of approximately 85,000 aliens (not all of them criminals) in New York City. The agency’s actual response to final orders of removal was what is known as a “run letter”—a notice asking the deportable alien kindly to show up in a month or
two to be deported, when the agency might be able to process him. Results: in 2001, 87 percent of deportable aliens who received run letters disappeared, a number that was even higher—94 percent—if they were from terror-sponsoring countries.

To other law-enforcement agencies, the feds’ triage often looks like complete indifference to immigration violations. Testifying to Congress about the Queens rape by illegal Mexicans, New York’s criminal justice coordinator defended the city’s failure to notify the INS after the rapists’ previous arrests on the ground that the agency wouldn’t have responded anyway. “We have time and time again been unable to reach INS on the phone,” John Feinblatt said last February. “When we reach them on the phone, they require that we write a letter. When we write a letter, they quire that it be by a superior.”

Criminal aliens also interpret the triage as indifference. John Mullaly a former NYPD homicide detective, estimates that 70 percent of the drug dealers and other criminals in Manhattan’s Washington Heights were illegal. Were Mullaly to threaten an illegal-alien thug in custody that his next stop would be El Salvador unless he cooperated, the criminal would just laugh, knowing that the INS would never show up. The message could not be clearer: this is a culture that can’t enforce its most basic law of entry. If policing’s broken-windows theory is correct, the failure to enforce one set of rules breeds overall contempt for the law.

The sheer number of criminal aliens overwhelmed an innovative program that would allow immigration officials to complete deportation hearings while a criminal was still in state or federal prison, so that upon his release he could be immediately ejected without taking
up precious INS detention space. But the process, begun in 1988, immediately bogged down due to the numbers—in 2000, for example, nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were foreign-born. The agency couldn’t find enough pro bono attorneys to represent such an army of criminal aliens (who have extensive due-process rights in contesting deportation) and so would have to request delay after delay. Or enough immigration judges would not be available. In 1997, the INS simply had no record of a whopping 36 percent of foreign-born inmates who had been released from federal and four state prisons without any review of their deportability. They included 1,198
aggravated felons, 80 of whom were soon re-arrested for new crimes.

Resource starvation is not the only reason for federal inaction. The INS was a creature of immigration politics, and INS district directors came under great pressure from local politicians to divert scarce resources into distribution of such “benefits” as permanent residency, citizenship, and work permits, and away from criminal or other investigations. In the late 1980s, for example, the INS refused to join an FBI task force against Haitian drug trafficking in Miami, fearing criticism for “Haitian-bashing.” In 1997, after Hispanic activists protested a much-publicized raid that netted nearly two dozen illegals, the Border Patrol said that it would no longer join Simi Valley, California, probation officers on home searches of illegal-alien-dominated gangs.

The disastrous Citizenship USA project of 1996 was a luminous case of politics driving the INS to sacrifice enforcement to “benefits.” When, in the early 1990s, the prospect of welfare reform drove immigrants to apply for citizenship in record numbers to preserve their welfare eligibility, the Clinton administration, seeing a political bonanza in hundreds of thousands of new welfare-dependent citizens, ordered the naturalization process radically expedited. Thanks to relentless administration pressure, processing errors in 1996 were 99 percent in New York and 90 percent in Los Angeles, and tens of thousands of aliens with criminal records, including for murder and armed robbery, were naturalized.

Another powerful political force, the immigration bar association, has won from Congress an elaborate set of due-process rights for criminal aliens that can keep them in the country indefinitely. Federal probation officers in Brooklyn are supervising two illegals—a Jordanian and an Egyptian with Saudi citizenship—who look “ready to blow up the Statue of Liberty,” according to a probation official, but the officers can’t get rid of them. The Jordanian had been caught fencing stolen Social Security and tax-refund checks; now he sells phone cards, which he uses himself to make untraceable calls. The Saudi’s offense: using a fraudulent Social Security number to get employment—a puzzlingly unnecessary scam, since he receives large sums from the Middle East, including from millionaire relatives. But intelligence links him to terrorism,
so presumably he worked in order not to draw attention to himself. Currently, he changes his cell phone every month. Ordinarily such a minor offense would not be prosecuted, but the government, fearing that he had terrorist intentions, used whatever it had to put him in prison.

Now, probation officers desperately want to see the duo out of the country, but the two ex-cons have hired lawyers, who are relentlessly fighting their deportation. “Due process allows you to stay for years without an adjudication,” says a probation officer in frustration. “A regular immigration attorney can keep you in the country for three years, a high-priced one for ten.” In the meantime, Brooklyn probation officials are watching the bridges.

Even where immigration officials successfully nab and deport criminal aliens, the reality, says a former federal gang prosecutor, is that “they all come back. They can’t make it in Mexico.” The tens of thousands of illegal farm workers and dishwashers who overpower U.S. border controls every year carry in their wake thousands of brutal assailants and terrorists who use the same smuggling industry and who benefit from the same irresistible odds: there are so many more of
them than the Border Patrol.

For, of course, the government’s inability to keep out criminal aliens is part and parcel of its inability to patrol the border, period. For decades, the INS had as much effect on the migration of
millions of illegals as a can tied to the tail of a tiger. And the immigrants themselves, despite the press cliché of hapless aliens living fearfully in the shadows, seemed to regard immigration
authorities with all the concern of an elephant for a flea.

Certainly fear of immigration officers is not in evidence among the hundreds of illegal day laborers who hang out on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York, in front of money wire services, travel agencies, immigration-attorney offices, and phone arcades, all catering to the
local Hispanic population (as well as to drug dealers and terrorists). “There is no chance of getting caught,” cheerfully explains Rafael, an Ecuadoran. Like the dozen Ecuadorans and Mexicans on his particular corner, Rafael is hoping that an SUV seeking carpenters for $100 a day will show up soon. “We don’t worry, because we’re not doing anything wrong. I know it’s illegal; I need the papers, but here, nobody asks you for papers.”

Even the newly fortified Mexican border, the one spot where the government really tries to prevent illegal immigration, looms as only a minor inconvenience to the day laborers. The odds, they realize, are overwhelmingly in their favor. Miguel, a reserved young carpenter, crossed the border at Tijuana three years ago with 15 others. Border Patrol spotted them, but with six officers to 16 illegals, only five got caught. In illegal border crossings, you get what you pay for, Miguel says. If you try to shave on the fee, the coyotes will abandon you at the first problem. Miguel’s wife was flying into New York from Los Angeles that very day; it had cost him $2,200 to get her
across the border. “Because I pay, I don’t worry,” he says complacently.

The only way to dampen illegal immigration and its attendant train of criminals and terrorists—short of an economic revolution in the sending countries or an impregnably militarized border—is to remove the jobs magnet. As long as migrants know they can easily get work, they will find ways to evade border controls. But enforcing laws against illegal labor is among government’s lowest priorities. In 2001, only 124 agents nationwide were trying to find and prosecute the hundreds of thousands of employers and millions of illegal aliens who violate the employment laws, the Associated Press reports.

Even were immigration officials to devote adequate resources to worksite investigations, not much would change, because their legal weapons are so weak. That’s no accident: though it is a crime to hire illegal aliens, a coalition of libertarians, business lobbies, and left-wing advocates has consistently blocked the fraud-proof form of work authorization necessary to enforce that ban. Libertarians have erupted in hysteria at such proposals as a toll-free number to the Social Security Administration for employers to confirm Social Security numbers. Hispanics warn just as stridently that helping employers verify work eligibility would result in discrimination
against Hispanics—implicitly conceding that vast numbers of Hispanics work illegally.

The result: hiring practices in illegal-immigrant-saturated industries are a charade. Millions of illegal workers pretend to present valid documents, and thousands of employers pretend to
believe them. The law doesn’t require the employer to verify that a worker is actually qualified to work, and as long as the proffered documents are not patently phony—scrawled with red crayon on a matchbook, say—the employer will nearly always be exempt from liability merely by having eyeballed them. To find an employer guilty of violating the ban on hiring illegal aliens, immigration authorities must prove that he knew he was getting fake papers—an almost
insurmountable burden. Meanwhile, the market for counterfeit documents has exploded: in one month alone in 1998, immigration authorities seized nearly 2 million of them in Los Angeles, destined for immigrant workers, welfare seekers, criminals, and terrorists.

For illegal workers and employers, there is no downside to the employment charade. If immigration officials ever do try to conduct an industry-wide investigation—which will at least net the illegal employees, if not the employers—local congressmen will almost certainly head it off. An INS inquiry into the Vidalia-onion industry in Georgia was not only aborted by Georgia’s congressional delegation; it actually resulted in a local amnesty for the growers’ illegal workforce. The downside to complying with the spirit of the employment law, on the other hand, is considerable. Ethnic advocacy groups are ready to picket employers who dismiss illegal workers, and employers understandably fear being undercut by less scrupulous competitors.

Of the incalculable changes in American politics, demographics, and culture that the continuing surge of migrants is causing, one of the most profound is the breakdown of the distinction between legal and illegal entry. Everywhere, illegal aliens receive free public education and free medical care at taxpayer expense; 13 states offer them driver’s licenses. States everywhere have been pushed to grant illegal aliens college scholarships and reduced in-state tuition. One hundred banks, over 800 law-enforcement agencies, and dozens of cities accept an identification card created by Mexico to credentialize illegal Mexican aliens in the U.S. The Bush administration has given its blessing to this matricula consular card, over the strong protest of the FBI, which warns that the gaping security loopholes that the card creates make it boon to money launderers, immigrant smugglers, and terrorists. Border authorities have already caught an Iranian man sneaking across the border this year, Mexican matricula card in hand.

Illegal aliens and their advocates speak loudly about what they think the U.S. owes them, not vice versa. “I believe they have a right . . . to work, to drive their kids to school,” said California
assemblywoman Sarah Reyes. An immigration agent says that people he stops “get in your face about their rights, because our failure to enforce the law emboldens them.” Taking this idea to its extreme, Joaquín Avila, a UCLA Chicano studies professor and law lecturer, argues that to deny non-citizens the vote, especially in the many California cities where they constitute the majority, is a form of apartheid.

Yet no poll has ever shown that Americans want more open borders. Quite the reverse. By a huge majority—at least 60 percent—they want to rein in immigration, and they endorse an observation that Senator Alan Simpson made 20 years ago: Americans “are fed up with
efforts to make them feel that [they] do not have that fundamental right of any people—to decide who will join them and help form the future country in which they and their posterity will live.” But if the elites’ and the advocates’ idea of giving voting rights to non-citizen majorities catches on—and don’t be surprised if it does—Americans could be faced with the ultimate absurdity of people outside the social compact making rules for those inside it.

But the non-enforcement of immigration laws in general has an even more destructive effect. In many immigrant communities, assimilation into gangs seems to be outstripping assimilation into civic culture. Toddlers are learning to flash gang signals and hate the police, reports the Los Angeles Times. In New York City, “every high school has its Mexican gang,” and most 12- to 14-year-olds have already joined, claims Ernesto Vega, an illegal 11-year-old Mexican. Such
pathologies only worsen when the first lesson that immigrants learn about U.S. law is that Americans don’t bother to enforce it. “Institutionalizing illegal immigration creates a mindset in people that anything goes in the U.S.,” observes Patrick Ortega, the news and public-affairs director of Radio Nueva Vida in southern California. “It creates a new subculture, with a sequela of social ills.” It is broken windows writ large.

For the sake of immigrants and native-born Americans alike, it’s time to decide what our immigration policy is—and enforce it.
Working for bit by bit amnesty is:
In California:

SAN DIEGO - MEXICAN DRUG LORDS - Why Are Our Borders Open?

December 9, 2009
How U.S. Became Stage for Mexican Drug Feud
CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Eduardo Tostado was a prosperous man whose businesses and pleasures straddled the coastal border. He owned a big house and a used-car lot in the San Diego suburbs, and a seafood restaurant in Tijuana.
He was also part of the border underworld, the authorities say — a high-ranking member of the Mexican drug cartel driving much of the United States’ illegal marijuana trade and the cascade of violence in a 40-year drug war. Some evenings, Mr. Tostado drank tequila at the Baby Rock club in Tijuana or sipped Scotch at the Airport Lounge in San Diego. He socialized mainly with men he knew well and women he knew not at all.
His wife, Ivette Rubio, was aware of this, and they were having problems in their marriage. So when Mr. Tostado called her in June 2007 to say he had been kidnapped and needed her to sell their house to pay a ransom, she did not believe him.
“You got drunk,” she said, “and you went out, and you didn’t come to sleep in the house.”
Click, the phone went dead.
Mr. Tostado was in the hands of Jorge Rojas-López, a former member of the cartel, the Arellano Félix organization, who had turned on it. Based in the San Diego suburbs, Mr. Rojas-López was running a renegade squad of kidnappers and hit men, fighting for a piece of the marijuana market.
Across the border, the Mexican government, with $1.5 billion from the United States, is battling its drug cartels, and the cartels are battling one other. The Arellano organization has borne the brunt of these drug wars, and has fragmented into smaller crews spinning across the border like shrapnel.
“We believe there has been a splintering of the A.F.O. and that it has lost the power that they once wielded,” said Keith Slotter, the agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s office in San Diego.
The illegal drug market has never been so unsettled, drug enforcement experts say, with small elite killing squads like the one Mr. Rojas-López was running — Mr. Slotter identified three in San Diego alone — operating on both sides of the border. For three years, Mr. Rojas-López’s rogue squad, a mix of United States citizens and Mexicans, used houses in tract developments as roving bases, hunting cartel members and imprisoning their prey along bland residential streets. They secured ransoms worth millions. Payment, however, did not guarantee that the victims survived.
At stake were billions of dollars in profits from tons of smuggled marijuana, and other drugs, and the precious control of Mexican border cities like Ciudad Juárez; Nogales; and Tijuana. Those cities are thoroughfares to the world’s most lucrative drug market: the United States.
The authorities in Kansas City, Mo., and Miami are also investigating the Mr. Rojas-López’s squad for drug trafficking and killings in their cities.
Mr. Rojas-López and eight other members of the squad, called Los Palillos, are now on trial in San Diego, charged with kidnapping 13 men and killing 9 from 2004 to 2007. Seven other co-defendants are fugitives. Since the investigation began, three more fugitive squad members have been killed.
This account of Los Palillos in Tijuana and San Diego, based on more than 6,000 pages of court documents, testimony from 175 witnesses and co-defendants, and interviews with law enforcement officials, offers a window into how Mexico’s drug wars are playing out on American soil.
Mr. Rojas-López’s ambitions were fueled by more than just desire for a piece of the marijuana trade. He also wanted revenge for the death of his brother, Victor, a cartel enforcer, who was killed by the Arellanos organization in 2003 for insubordination. Mr. Rojas-López’s squad eluded the Arellanos cartel and law enforcement officials in San Diego for three years. Investigators heard whispers of a mutinous enforcement squad operating in the area but were unable to put the pieces together.
Relatives of the kidnapping victims either avoided the police or withheld crucial information about their loved ones. Instead, they quietly sold assets on both sides of the border, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of days.
Some victims were released unharmed. Others were smothered with masking tape, shot in the stomach or pulverized with a police battering ram and dumped on a suburban street. Or they were boiled down in acid and never seen again, a technique known in Mexico as “pozole,” or Mexican stew.
Mr. Tostado, the kidnapped businessman with the big house here, and his wife were among the pawns in this underworld, with Mr. Rojas-López demanding $2 million from Ms. Rubio for her husband’s life. The next call she received that day was not from her husband.
She did not recognize the voice that said, “Hey, you want me to send your husband in pieces or what?”
Call to Police Pays Off
At the time of his abduction, Mr. Tostado, a legal resident of both the United States and Mexico, was helping the Arellanos cartel “pass tons of marijuana” across the United States border, according to the federal agents and José Olivera-Beritan, one of the nine suspected members of Los Palillos who is on trial in San Diego Superior Court for murder and kidnapping. “He knew in advance which trucks will be searched,” Mr. Olivera-Beritan said of Mr. Tostado in a jailhouse interview. “He told us he was giving cops money under the table.”
Mr. Tostado has offered contradictory statements to agents regarding his cartel affiliation.
His wife, Ms. Rubio, took a risk that night in June 2007 by calling the police. Investigators say that it made the difference between Mr. Tostado’s survival and the stories of less-fortunate kidnapping victims.
The event that led to the renegade squad occurred in 2003, when Victor Rojas-López crossed the cartel.
One evening at Zool, a nightclub in Tijuana, members of his enforcement squad got in a fight with members of another Arellano squad over a woman. A member of Victor Rojas-López’s team pushed a gun into the face of a man who happened to be the brother-in-law of the cartel leader, according to grand jury testimony.
The bosses ordered Victor Rojas-López to kill the underling. He refused and was shot to death.
His younger brother, Jorge, then took over the squad, called it Los Palillos — “the toothpicks,” after Victor, who was skinny but tough — and fled to San Diego.
Mark Amador, a San Diego County deputy district attorney who is the lead prosecutor against Los Palillos, said that much of the evidence about what happened next came from an insider, Guillermo Moreno, an American citizen and the member of Los Palillos who had pulled the gun at Zool.
“He is the witness that pulls all the pieces together,” Mr. Amador said. Mr. Moreno, who was arrested after Mr. Tostado’s kidnapping, ultimately led investigators to rental houses around San Diego used by Los Palillos. In a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to a minimum 25-year prison sentence, rather than life. At some houses, forensic investigators found DNA from victims.
When members of Los Palillos first arrived in San Diego, they lived quietly off earlier spoils. Then they went back to the work they knew best: killing and drug trafficking.
The first corpses were found on Aug. 15, 2004, decomposing in a Dodge minivan.
The police said the bodies belonged to three drug smugglers who had crossed the border to do a deal with the squad members.
The squad used safe houses with attached garages so they could move drugs or bodies in and out without being seen, Mr. Moreno, the witness, said. In many neighborhoods, the real estate bubble created a constant churn of new faces, so it was easy to go undetected.
The three smugglers expected to drop off several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of marijuana, sleep over and leave for Mexico in the morning. Instead, Mr. Moreno said, the squad waited for the men to fall asleep, then shot one of them in the stomach.
“Someone said, ‘Quit crying, you,’ ” Mr. Moreno told the grand jury. The man bled to death.
The other two smugglers were suffocated. Mr. Rojas-López is accused of stealing their marijuana and ordering Mr. Moreno to dump the bodies.
The Arellanos cartel, meanwhile, ordered a former Baja California police officer named Ricardo Escobar Luna, 31, who was working for the cartel, to hunt down Los Palillos in San Diego.
But members of the squad learned that Mr. Escobar was after them and abducted him from his home in Bonita, Calif., according to testimony from Mr. Moreno. The kidnappers disguised themselves as police officers and drove up in a BMW with flashing lights.
Mr. Escobar’s wife called the police but never mentioned that her husband worked for the Arellanos cartel, said Steve Duncan, an investigator for the California Department of Justice.
Testifying before the grand jury, Mr. Moreno described how he had overheard a discussion among squad members before the kidnapping: “Well, he’s here to kill us; we might as well kill him.”
On Aug. 20, 2005, Mr. Rojas-López took a police battering ram into the bedroom where Mr. Escobar, the former police officer, was tied up, according to testimony by Mr. Moreno.
Meanwhile, Mr. Moreno went outside to water the lawn and keep an eye on the neighbors, he said. When he went back inside, he saw blood on the walls.
Victor Escobar, the former officer’s brother, told investigators that he had paid the squad $600,000 for his freedom, but he never had much hope. “Yeah, I knew they’d kill my brother,” he said. “But what else could I do?”
By September 2005, the police were beginning to understand that the killings around San Diego were related, but they still did not know how. The case began to unfold when two squad members with automatic rifles and pistols bungled the kidnapping of an Arellanos cartel trafficker in a cul-de-sac in Chula Vista, in broad daylight.
A police cruiser chased the gunmen to a strip mall parking lot and was barraged by bullets.
The gunmen were caught later that day and eventually convicted for attempted kidnapping and the attempted murder of a police officer.
Within a few years, Los Palillos had become a minicartel with a drug trafficking network that snaked through the Mexican cities of Ensenada and Tijuana, San Diego and on to Missouri and Florida, according to federal agents.
Two Cuban nationals ran Los Palillos operations in Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Moreno, the witness, told federal officials.
In September 2006, a woman in the small farming community of Jameson, about 50 miles north of Kansas City, heard gun shots and then found two bodies near a barn. Deputies discovered a 47,000-square-foot marijuana garden behind rows of corn stalks. Members of Los Palillos were arrested on suspicion of killing local rivals, the authorities said.
By 2007, the authorities said, the renegade squad had made millions of dollars. Mr. Rojas-López wore Rolex watches. Photographs on MySpace showed his squad members hoisting drinks at trendy San Diego bars.
In May 2007, two more drug smugglers, both 33, were kidnapped, and they were never seen again. Mr. Moreno told federal agents that their bodies had been dissolved in a vat of acid.
Beer, Soccer and Arrests
Before he was kidnapped, Mr. Tostado was worried. A man had left an extortion note at the front door of his home, recorded by his security camera. Armed with a picture of the man, Mr. Tostado drove down to Tijuana to find some answers.
Mr. Tostado, an avid off-road racer, who admitted in court that he had socialized with members of the Mexican underworld and had accepted a $200,000 race car from the Arellano family, learned that the man in the photo was a member of Los Palillos.
A few weeks later, an acquaintance introduced Mr. Tostado to a Tijuana woman named Nancy. On June 8, Nancy invited Mr. Tostado to her home in Chula Vista. Mr. Tostado walked in carrying bottles of Cognac and whiskey. Hands grabbed him from behind in the darkened room. Someone fired a Taser, immobilizing him.
Mr. Tostado was held for eight days while Los Palillos negotiated by phone with his wife. He said that he drank beers with his abductors, who watched soccer on television and smoked marijuana.
Occasionally, Mr. Rojas-López would vent angrily about the Arellanos cartel.
“They have killed my family and my brother,” he told him. “I had to do something, and I have the nerve to do it over here.”
By June 16, Mr. Rojas-López had agreed to accept $193,000 in cash. Wiretapped calls recorded the kidnappers directing the dropping off of the ransom money.
On June 16, 2007, federal agents arrested the squad leaders, Mr. Rojas-López and Juan Estrada-Gonzalez, the second-in-charge, after they dropped the money off at a motel. Another team of agents stormed the house where Mr. Tostado was being held and freed him.
Later that day, as Mr. Tostado recounted his experience to federal agents, he pledged to leave the underworld behind.
“I think I need to start over again,” he said. “I’m reborn right now.”
Mr. Tostado is keeping a low profile these days. He sold his house in Chula Vista and no longer races the off-road circuits in Mexico.
He sold his restaurant in Tijuana, too, after someone left three barrels in front of it in 2008. They were full of bones and acid.



Rights group faults Mexico over alleged army abuse
Amnesty International, citing cases of alleged slayings by the military in the drug war, criticizes civilian officials, saying they fail to properly investigate or prosecute crimes by the army.
By Tracy Wilkinson

December 9, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City

The Mexican army, deployed across the nation as part of the government's campaign against drug cartels, has killed prisoners, tortured civilians and captured suspects illegally, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

In a scathing report, the human rights organization was especially critical of Mexico's civilian authorities, saying they had failed or refused to investigate or prosecute military abuses. Complaints against the military are almost entirely handled by military courts, and only a handful of cases, among thousands of denouncements, has been prosecuted.

"The abuses we have seen contribute to the deterioration of the security situation in Mexico," Kerrie Howard, deputy director of Amnesty's Americas Program, said in a statement. "By failing to take action to prevent and punish serious human rights violations the Mexican government could be seen to be complicit in these crimes."

Some human rights advocates have urged the U.S. to hold back part of its drug war aid to Mexico because of alleged abuses, but the Obama administration has declined to do so.

The report highlights five cases involving 35 people, providing what Amnesty International called a representative "panorama" of a bleak human rights record. It cited two factors that impeded a more exhaustive investigation: "unnecessary restrictions" that block publicizing complaints against military personnel or releasing pertinent information, and threats against victims and their families if they denounce abuse.

Cases cited included that of Saul Becerra, whose body was found near the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez in March. He was last seen being taken away by army troops several months earlier. Five men detained with him reported being held in the barracks of a motorized cavalry regiment and beaten and threatened for days.

In another case, 25 municipal police agents from Tijuana said they were seized by the army and held and tortured inside an infantry base for more than a month. Electrical shocks were applied to their feet and genitals, their heads were covered with plastic bags and they were beaten, they said, in an effort to exact false confessions.

In most of the cases, efforts by frantic families to find their missing relatives faced general inaction on the part of authorities, Amnesty International said.

Three men picked up by the army after dinner one night in March in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo were found burned to death about a month later. The families obtained photos and video of soldiers driving around in one of the dead men's cars.

In this case, a rarity, 12 soldiers were arrested by the army, but, Amnesty International said, because of the military's opaque justice system, it has not been possible to find out more about what happened and whether the soldiers were punished.

"Human rights violations by the members of the military are not rare, they are frequent and in some areas routine," Amnesty International said. "The failure of the civilian authorities to effectively oversee military law enforcement operations to ensure respect for human rights is a grave omission."

The government of President Felipe Calderon said it would examine Amnesty International's findings but defended its respect for human rights and noted that the army had received human rights training. The army's role in fighting drug traffickers was necessary but temporary, a government statement said, to "rescue public spaces seized by criminals."

As drug violence and the pace of killings have soared exponentially -- more than 14,000 people have died in drug-related slayings in the last three years -- so has the number of complaints filed against the army with the National Human Rights Commission: 182 in 2006 compared with 1,230 in 2008 and almost 2,000 this year.

The highest number of human rights complaints has been registered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's deadliest city, triple this year over last, officials say. Thousands of residents of Juarez took to the streets over the weekend in a march demanding protection from both traffickers and the army. It was a rare show of united public protest against the violence engulfing the region.