Thursday, December 10, 2009


Zogby poll shows Mexicans think that the Southwest is theirs.

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-28, 10:36AM PDT


According to a 2000 poll by Zogby International, 58% of the Mexican population believes the Southwest territory of the US rightfully belongs to Mexico, and that 57% of the Mexican population believes they should have the right to enter the US without permission.

The single largest majority in the entire poll was found among American's supporting use of the military to guard the border. Almost 70% of those surveyed agree with the statement, "the US should deploy military troops on the border as a temporary measure to help the US Border Patrol curb illegal immigration." (9)

In September 2002, Mexican President Vincente Fox went to Washington, DC to lobby the US Government for amnesty for millions of illegal Mexican aliens currently living in the US If the president of the US gives amnesty to the illegal Mexican aliens, voter registration will follow. President Fox also lobbied the US government for an open American-Mexican border policy. This would allow an uninterrupted invasion of illegal aliens, terrorists, spies, saboteurs, and illegal drugs from any nation along a border nearly 2000 miles long, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.

President Ronald Reagan nailed it hard and clean nearly two decades ago: "The simple truth is that we've lost control of our own borders, and no nation can do that and survive. We ignore America's lost sovereignty at our peril." (10)


Oklahoma no longer OK for illegal aliens

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-19, 4:47PM PDT

Chad Groening OneNewsNow.comMay 16, 2007

Oklahoma's Governor Brad Henry has signed a sweeping immigration reform bill, House Bill 1804, that its sponsor believes will go a long way in dealing with the illegal alien problem in the state.

House Bill 1804 was passed by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate of the Oklahoma Legislature. The measure's sponsor, State Representative Randy Terrill, says the bill has four main topical areas: it deals with identity theft; it terminates public assistance benefits to illegals; it empowers state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws; and it punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

Oklahoma is no longer "O.K." for illegal aliens, Terrill observes. "When you put everything together in context," he contends, "the bottom line is illegal aliens will not come here if there are no jobs waiting for them, they will not stay here if there is no government subsidy, and they certainly won't stay here if they know that if they ever encounter our state and local law enforcement officers, they will be physically detained until they're deported. And that's exactly what House Bill 1804 does."

The Oklahoma legislator is pleased the bill he sponsored into law was signed by Governor Henry and believes it will go a long way to curb the illegal immigration problem in the state. "I would remind people that states are separate sovereigns in our federal system," Terrill points out. "Anyone who doesn't understand that needs to go back and take an American federal government class in college," he says.

As a result of that sovereignty, the Oklahoma lawmaker insists, "we have as much right -- in fact, I would argue, a responsibility -- to protect our taxpayers against that sort of egregious waste, fraud and abuse as the federal government should have a responsibility to protect that international border, but doesn't do that."

Terrill says as long as the federal government refuses to do its job of protecting the international borders of the United States, states like Oklahoma must take action to deal with the problem that is costing taxpayers in the state $200 million a year in public benefits, law enforcement costs, and other resources.

LOS ANGELES - A Mexican Gang Crime Wave After Wave

Illegal Crime Wave

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-19, 5:27AM PDT


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.


Mexico right here in America

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-18, 9:38AM PDT

Illegals' low expectations for the rule of law is turning Southern California into Mexico.



"A rough-and-tumble world of small-city politics has come to define the drug- and gang-infested cities clustered around the 710 freeway: Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood and South Gate, among others.

In recent decades, the demographic shift from white working class to Mexicans and Central Americans resulted in immigrants and their sons and daughters gaining political power. Now, most elected officials reflect the majority Latino population. But high unemployment, illegal immigration and a maze of freeways, truck stops and industrial areas — just a half-day’s drive from Mexico — have contributed to the busy drug-trafficking zones, blight and violence.

Residents, many of them illegal or too young to vote, have it rough. After complaining to authorities or taking too much notice of suspicious activity on their block, some low-income residents have been repaid with retaliation or violent threats. In Cudahy, one persistent complainer got a door-knock from the police — a public no-no that alerts drug dealers to the complainer’s identity and can result in that person’s property being vandalized.

“It gets a lot worse than that,” says a local cop, acknowledging that criminal threats are so common that police are hard-pressed to investigate them.

In contrast to the vulnerability of the average Cudahy resident, business owners who operate questionable businesses get velvet-glove treatment from politicians that would be considered scandalous in the city of Los Angeles. In Cudahy, the Potrero Club is one of several magnets for crime and is frequented by gangsters, but it is nevertheless embraced by Cudahy authorities. A notorious nightspot that parents warn their children to stay away from, the Potrero Club has a long record of being the scene of thefts, assaults and drug activity.

Officials in Cudahy openly promote this crime magnet, however, holding fund-raisers for the Cudahy Youth Foundation there and even using it as an annual gathering spot for a children’s Christmas pageant. Cudahy has sunk so low that each year at Christmastime, Perez and the city council parade around town on the back of a tow truck and toss candy to the children, with the procession ending in a toy giveaway at the Potrero Club, whose owners in the past have displayed photos not of Hollywood movie stars but of famous Mexican drug traffickers.

Crime statistics for the Potrero Club show 700 calls for police assistance there since September 2003, in response to reports of shootings, assaults, stabbings, beatings by security guards, drug use — even rape.

City leaders don’t find it strange that a dangerous nightclub passes for a civic pillar in Cudahy. Cars disappear from the Potrero at an alarming rate, according to police reports obtained by the Weekly. When asked about Cudahy’s use of the Potrero for official events, Perez says, 'It’s not my favorite place, but we’ll continue to use it.'"



Illegal Immigration Costs California Over Ten Billion Annually

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-18, 1:07AM PDT

In hosting America's largest population of illegal immigrants, California bears a huge cost to provide basic human services for this fast growing, low-income segment of its population. A new study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) examines the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens, and concludes that the costs to Californians is $10.5 billion per year.

Among the key finding of the report are that the state's already struggling K-12 education system spends approximately $7.7 billion a year to school the children of illegal aliens who now constitute 15 percent of the student body. Another $1.4 billion of the taxpayers' money goes toward providing health care to illegal aliens and their families, the same amount that is spent incarcerating illegal aliens criminals.

"California's addiction to 'cheap' illegal alien labor is bankrupting the state and posing enormous burdens on the state's shrinking middle class tax base," stated Dan Stein, President of FAIR. "Most Californians, who have seen their taxes increase while public services deteriorate, already know the impact that mass illegal immigration is having on their communities, but even they may be shocked when they learn just how much of a drain illegal immigration has become."

The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Californians focuses on three specific program areas because those were the costs examined by researchers from the Urban Institute in 1994. Looking at the costs of education, health care and incarceration for illegal aliens in 1994, the Urban Institute estimated that California was subsidizing illegal immigrants to the tune of about $1.1 billion. The enormous rise in the costs of illegal immigrants over the intervening ten years is due to the rapid growth in illegal residents. It is reasonable to expect those costs to continue to soar if action is not taken to turn the tide.

"Nineteen ninety-four was the same year that California voters rebelled and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187, which sought to limit liability for mass illegal immigration. Since then, state and local governments have blatantly ignored the wishes of the voters and continued to shell out publicly financed benefits on illegal aliens," said Stein. "Predictably, the costs of illegal immigration have grown geometrically, while the state has spiraled into a fiscal crisis that has brought it near bankruptcy.

"Nothing could more starkly illustrate the very high costs of ‘cheap labor' than California's current situation," continued Stein. "A small number of powerful interests in the state reap the benefits, while the average native-born family in California gets handed a nearly $1,200 a year bill."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is a nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization advocating immigration policy reforms that would tighten border security and prevent illegal immigration, while reducing legal immigration levels from about 1.1 million persons per year to 300,000 per year.



Senate Amnesty Could Strain
Welfare System

Newest Data Shows Latin American Immigrants
Make Heavy Use of Welfare

WASHINGTON (June 6, 2007) — As they debate legalization for illegal immigrants, Senators would do well to keep in mind the most recent data on welfare use by the people in question. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 60% of illegal aliens are from Mexico and 80% of the total are from Latin America as a whole. A Center for Immigration Studies analysis of 2006 Census Bureau data, which includes legal and illegal immigrants, shows use of welfare by households headed by Mexican and Latin American immigrants is more than double that of native households. Among the findings:

51% of all Mexican immigrant households use at least one major welfare program and 28% use more than one program.
– 40% use food assistance, 35% use Medicaid, 6% use cash assistance.

45% of all Latin American immigrant households use at least one welfare program and 24% use more than one program.
– 32% use food assistance, 31% use Medicaid, 6% use cash assistance.

20% of native households use at least one welfare program and 11% multiple programs.
– 11% use food assistance, 15% use Medicaid, 5% use cash assistance.

Among Mexican and Latin American households, welfare use is somewhat higher for households headed by legal, as opposed to illegal, immigrants. Thus legalization will likely increase welfare costs still further.

90% of Mexican and Latin American households have at least one worker. Their heavy welfare use reflects their low education levels and resulting low incomes – and not an unwillingness work.
– 61% of all Mexican immigrants have not graduated high school.
– 48% of all Latin American immigrants have not graduated high school.

There is a common but mistaken belief that welfare programs are only for those who don’t work. Actually, the welfare system is designed to provide low-wage workers, or more often their children, things like food assistance and health care.

It is the presence of their U.S.-born children coupled with their low education levels that explains why so many immigrant households use the welfare system.

Most recently arrived immigrants are barred from using welfare programs and this would likely apply to those legalized by the Senate bill – however this is not true in every state, nor does not apply to all programs. Most important, the bar does not apply to the U.S.-born children of immigrants, who are immediately eligible.

There are an estimated 1.4 million households headed by illegal aliens using at least one major welfare program. If even half these families returned to their home countries, the savings for taxpayers could be substantial.

If we do not wish to make a large share of illegals return to their home countries, then the United States has to accept the welfare costs. There is no other option.

Programs examined in the analysis are food stamps, WIC, school lunch, Medicaid, TANF, SSI, and public/rent-subsidized housing.

If Illegals Stay, So Will Welfare Costs: The heavy use of welfare by immigrants from those parts of the world that send the most illegals is relevant to the question of whether to allow illegal immigrants to stay or, alternatively, to enforce the law and cause them to return home. The figures reported above are drawn directly from the best government data available, and show that allowing illegals to stay creates significant welfare costs. Many of the welfare costs described above are due to the presence of U.S.-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth. Thus, the prohibition on new immigrants using some welfare programs makes little difference because their U.S.-citizen children will continue to be eligible. We estimate that nearly 400,000 children are born to illegal aliens each year.

Welfare Use by Working Immigrant Families: Most immigrants from Mexico and Latin America hold jobs. Their heavy use of the welfare system is due to the fact that a very large share have little education and as a result are able to earn only low incomes in the modern American economy, even though they work. The welfare system is geared toward helping low-income workers, especially those with children. Their education levels and the presence of U.S.-born children means welfare use will be extensive.

Tax Payments: Of course, immigrants, including illegal aliens, also pay taxes. However, because of the education level and resulting incomes levels of Mexican and Latin American immigrants, their tax payments are much less than natives on average. The same is true for illegal aliens. In a 2004 study, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that illegal alien households used about $2,700 more services than they paid in taxes at the federal level only. We also found that households headed by a legal Mexican immigrant created a net fiscal drain at the federal level of roughly $15,000, and for those with only a high school degree the drain was a little over $3,700. However, those with more education were a fiscal benefit. A new Heritage Foundation study estimated the net fiscal drain at all levels of government created by households headed by high school dropout immigrants at about $20,000 a year. A 1997 National Research Council study found the same pattern – less-educated immigrants create a net fiscal drain and educated immigrants create a net fiscal benefit.

Data Source: The data for this analysis come from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS) collected by the Census Bureau in March of 2006. It includes legal immigrants and most illegal immigrants. Like the Department of Homeland Security, we distinguish legal from illegal immigrants based on the socio-demographic characteristics of those who responded to the survey. By design our estimates of illegal immigration closely match those of DHS.

Results are also broken out for the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.


Drug wars endanger Mexican press
Mexico is now considered the most dangerous country for journalists, after Iraq.
By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
When gunmen hurled a grenade into a tiny newspaper office in this town on the US-Mexican border – an attack that left one reporter paralyzed for life – the daily El Manana quickly put up a bulletproof wall outside the entrance. From then on they sent teams covering crime out in threes – a reporter, a photographer, and an extra pair of eyes.

But the most significant change at the paper in Nuevo Laredo, the traditional epicenter of Mexico's increasingly violent drug wars, was a decision about how to cover the news itself: all local, drug-related news came off the front page and names of suspects came out altogether.

Since the grenade attack last February, the drug wars have continued to spread across the country – and attacks and threats to the press have multiplied in their wake.

Last month a local councilman's head was left outside a newspaper office in Tabasco State, in what's become a common intimidation tactic. A prominent journalist in Acapulco was shot dead in April after leaving his radio show. Two television reporters in the northern city of Monterrey have been missing since May.

The situation is so grave here that the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders dubbed Mexico the most dangerous country in which to work as a journalism, after Iraq.

But, for many, the impact on freedom of speech is the greatest threat. Last month, after two grenade attacks, the Cambio Sonora became the first paper to preemptively shut down – and many fear more will follow.

"Over the last 20 years, the free press has been one of the most valuable tools to consolidate the democratic transition," says Gerardo Priego Tapia, president of the Special Commission to Address Aggression Against the Media in the Mexican legislature. "If we don't have information on what is happening in Mexico, we won't know how to pressure our local, state, and federal authorities," he says.

The number of journalists killed last year in Mexico varies between half a dozen and a dozen, depending on which group is counting. Mr. Priego Tapia says that his commission's numbers show that over 30 media members have been killed since 2000. But all agree that the kidnappings, death threats, and self-censorship now marring Mexico may have surpassed even what took place during Colombia's notorious, drug-fueled civil war.

Attacks on press mirror drug violence

In many ways the attacks against the press mirror the increasing audacity of the drug wars, as cartels battle for lucrative drug routes into the US. The nation has been stunned in the past year by beheadings and daylight shootouts that have left innocent bystanders dead.

In December, President Felipe Calderón sent thousands of troops and police throughout the troubled areas of the country, but so far the violence has increased.

Jorge Zepeda Patterson, a prominent columnist and founder of two newspapers in Guadalajara, says that attacks by drug traffickers on the press are also defensive. "For a trafficker, it's not a big deal if the media talks about a cartel leader; what they care about is investigations of corruption among the police and politicians," he says. "Because they've invested a lot in maintaining their networks of protection, and have a lot to lose."

Media receives little protection

Many outlets say they receive no protection from the local, state, or federal authorities.

While Ricardo Garza, the editorial director of El Mañana, declines to give interviews, he points to a recent edition's quote of the day from Mahatma Gandhi: "The most atrocious thing that bad people do is silence the good people." It might be ironic – given their decision to bury their local drug coverage deep into the paper – but in the absence of more support from authorities, their editorial decision to limit coverage is their only choice, he explains.

Some reporters have already quit his staff. Across the country many journalists are only skimming the surface of the news, regurgitating the official police reports from authorities without any independent investigation. Many reporters refuse to attach their names to their stories.

The federal government has moved to address the issue. Last year, in the wake of the Nuevo Laredo case, it opened the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists.

So far they have not solved a single case, says Carlos Lauria, the Americas director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The Mexican justice system has not been able to solve any of these murders and attacks. Impunity is 100 percent," says Mr. Lauria, who helped push for the creation of the special prosecutor's office. "It gives a green light to the perpetrators of these crimes."

Octavio Orellana, the special prosecutor, was not available for comment.

In the meantime Priego Tapia says that his group will focus on prevention, by holding seminars to teach journalists how to protect themselves and what to do if they have already received threats or been followed. They carried out their first in Michoacán last month, and plan to reach every state capital by year's end.

One teenager, sitting in his garage in Nuevo Laredo, mocks the newspapers' decisions. "They are afraid," he says, scoffing. But when asked for his name, he declines. "I don't want to get mixed up in that."


Alleged swindler leveraged gang ties, officials say
The real estate agent is accused of defrauding dozens of investors in working-class areas of about $2.6 million.
By Hector Becerra
Times Staff Writer

June 11, 2007

To those who met him, Tony Nava Jr. exuded success. He was a Realtor who drove fancy cars and boasted of owning one of the most expensive houses in Montebello.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Nava was a swindler who preyed on people in working-class neighborhoods. They charged Nava with defrauding as many as 80 people — from housekeepers to a stand-up comedian — of about $2.6 million.

When "investors" got suspicious, they rarely complained. Why? Because Nava made it clear that he had connections to the Mongols biker gang, according to prosecutors.

Now, Nava, 42, is about to go on trial in a case that reads like a gangster novel, including a shootout with L.A. County sheriff's deputies that left his brother — a Mongol — dead.

Investigators are still looking for defrauded investors, and trying to determine whether Nava funneled some proceeds to the gang.

Nava has pleaded not guilty to 86 counts of securities fraud. His attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Berger said Nava told people that by investing large amounts of money with him, they would see big returns.

Adrian Ramirez, 30, one of Nava's alleged victims, said he, his parents and grandmother gave Nava more than $200,000.

Ramirez said he met Nava about four years ago while taking real estate classes at a realty company in Monterey Park.

Ramirez said initial investors like himself would bring in additional investors, often family members.

"He told me he was forming a real estate team and wanted young guys who were not tainted by the real estate industry yet," Ramirez said, adding that Nava complimented him for wearing a suit. "He appealed to my ego."

The alleged scheme involved persuading people to invest in "hard-money" loans — high- interest loans to people who couldn't borrow from banks. In the beginning, Ramirez said, Nava offered returns on the investments, which were not large.

Soon the investments grew. From 2004 to March 2006, 12 people alone invested more than $780,000 with Nava, prosecutors said.

"My father put up about $150,000 from a line of credit off his house," Ramirez said. "I have a very trusting family. They're not business-oriented at all."

In some cases, family members gave more than $350,000 to Nava, always in cash, Berger said.

"One day he bought a Lincoln Navigator, the big … extended one," Ramirez said. "It didn't dawn on us right away that we just gave him all this money, and he goes out and gets a Lincoln Navigator."

Eventually, people began to get suspicious because they were not receiving investment returns from Nava, Berger said. But he said initially they declined to go to authorities because Nava made it no secret that his brother, Art Nava, was a leader of the Mongols gang.

"Nava presented his brother as a stockbroker by day and Mongol by night," Ramirez said. "He was telling us about his brother the Mongol about the time the money was coming due."

In March 2006, Nava stopped answering his cellphone and disappeared, according to court records. He checked into the Hilton Garden Inn in Montebello. While there, Berger said, he persuaded some of the hotel staff and guests to give him cash for investments.

Then, on Nov. 6, Nava's brother was killed during a shootout with sheriff's deputies in East Los Angeles after a domestic violence call.

With his brother dead, some of the people who gave money to Nava began earlier this year to approach prosecutors and the Montebello Police Department.

But Art Nava's death also led Tony Nava Jr. to make a fateful decision, Berger said.

"He had to get himself protection," he said, which meant solidifying his connection to the Mongols gang.

On March 24, Nava was driving a new BMW 745i in the West Covina area when he suddenly got out of the car and hopped into a friend's Chevrolet Tahoe.

A short distance away, the Tahoe was stopped by deputies and Nava was arrested on a $2.5-million arrest warrant. Inside the Tahoe, investigators found a black leather vest with the colors and badge of the Outlaw Mongols, and in one of the pockets, a loaded .45-caliber Colt handgun, court records show.

"You can't wear that badge unless you are a member of that gang," Berger said during a bail hearing. "Otherwise, you will be killed."

While Nava was in custody, Berger said investigators discovered recent tattoos on his arms indicating his membership in the Mongols. Nava faces an additional charge of being an alleged gang member in possession of a gun.

Inside the abandoned BMW, investigators said they found ammunition for the gun, as well as a leather briefcase filled with about 70 "investment agreements."

Berger said investigators are trying to find the people named in the agreements. The forms suggest that these people — assuming they exist — gave Nava about $1.6 million.

Nava has changed attorneys, but his onetime lawyer, Attilio M. Regolo Jr., in court described Nava as no threat. Regolo did not return phone calls seeking comment. Neither did Nava's subsequent attorney.

On May 9, Nava was released on $1.3-million bail. The bail was posted by George Aguirre, an admitted Mongol, Berger said, who invested more than $167,000 with Nava. In court, Berger argued that the bail was "feloniously obtained." But a court commissioner said there was no proof of that.

Aguirre declined to comment, and Nava could not be reached for comment.

Berger said that many mysteries remain in the case. A preliminary hearing is set for July 18. Investigators are still trying to locate other people who appear to have given Nava money.

The prosecutor said he also wonders whether Nava funneled money to the biker gang. None of the money has been found, Berger said.

"That might explain his very rapid acceptance into a gang that has historically been very hard to join," he said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Montebello police at (323) 887-1249.

Ramirez said he is doubtful he will ever get his family's money back. He said he has not told his parents that the money is gone. He has been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day to pay his father's mortgage.

"I'll probably be doing this for the next 10 years," Ramirez said. "Nava was a great manipulator. I learned a lot from him from being scammed."


First, enforce immigration law
The Senate should try for reform again, but focus first on border security and employer compliance.
During the two weeks that the Senate debated a "grand bargain" immigration bill – and then gave up last Thursday – America had to absorb an estimated 28,000 more illegal aliens. That massive rate of lawlessness is just the reason the Senate should make a second try at reform soon.

Among the chief reasons the bill failed is that it would have reduced the flow of illegal immigrants by only a quarter, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many senators simply forgot that the initiating impetus for reform began with the post-9/11 drive to better guard US borders and to make sure Americans feel safe once again in welcoming (legal) immigrants.

The Senate got tangled up over many ancillary provisions, such as how to continue providing inexpensive, legal immigrant labor to business or whether to give tax money to newly legalized immigrants. The bill, a careful compromise put together by 12 Republican and Democratic senators, was becoming burdened by an endless stream of amendments, many to simply score political points with key special interests or big donors.

Another reason for the Senate logjam was strong public doubt over a key provision to offer a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. The penalties to be imposed for breaking the law before granting citizenship were seen as too weak, and many thought they amounted to amnesty. (The bill imposed fines and fees of more than $9,000, heads of households would have needed to "touch back" in their home country to apply for legal entry, and applicants would have had to learn English.)

That unease over rewarding outlaws with US citizenship touches on the most difficult balancing act for immigration reform: If the penalties are too stiff, illegal immigrants will not come forward and will remain underground, eroding respect for the rule of law; if they are too weak, there's little disincentive for millions more would-be immigrants to keep crossing the border or for those arriving with temporary visas to overstay illegally – also eroding rule of law.

To get around that problem, the "grand bargain" bill tried to put enforcement first. A digital checking system was set for employers to verify a worker's legal status while beefing up enforcement at the border with more agents, more effective electronic detection, and longer fences. Other provisions in the bill would not have kicked in until that system was in place.

But Congress still faces a huge credibility gap. Another "grand bargain" law passed in 1986 promised border enforcement and a crackdown on employers while granting an easier amnesty. The illegal migrants got their amnesty (helping to lure more illegals) but the federal government didn't deliver on enforcement.

To make its case to skeptical Americans, the Senate needs to pass a bill simply aimed at enforcement, hope the House passes it, and then await the reality check on its outcome. It may take a few years of effective enforcement – not just creating the bureaucracy for it – to reclaim the border and keep employers honest.

The initial task in defining who can be an American should be easy: First, obey US law. Senators should reassert their own Americanness by making sure the laws are obeyed at the border and in the workplace.


Ethnic cleansing of Anglos & blacks by illegal alien gangs in LA

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-09, 4:09PM PDT

Illegal alien gangs such as MS-13, the 18th Street Gang, LA Surenos, and many more now control large areas in Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, they have set up ethnic cleansing zones where Anglo and black Americans can be murdered just for entering these areas.

The Los Angeles County population is about 10 million. 5 million are illegal aliens.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens, 75% of the people on the Los Angeles most wanted list are illegal aliens, and 95% of warrants for murders in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that half of all gang members in Los Angeles are likely illegal aliens. These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Face of Illegal Immigration, Human Events : May 8 , 2007 -- by Armstrong Williams

ALIPAC, Americans for Legal Immigrations:


June 10, 2007
Hispanic Voters Enjoy New Clout With Democrats
WASHINGTON, June 9 — Helped by the fight over immigration, Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination are moving to court Hispanic voters like never before, as a string of early primary states with sizable Hispanic voting blocs prompt candidates to hire outreach consultants, start Spanish-language Web sites and campaign vigorously before Hispanic audiences.
The battle for Hispanic voters is a result of the decision by several states with large Hispanic populations to move their presidential primaries to early 2008, including California, Florida and New York. Roughly two-thirds of the nation’s Hispanic residents live in nine of the states that will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses on or before Feb. 5.
Strategists say the influence of Hispanic voters is likely to be amplified next year because of an unusually intense response in many Hispanic communities to immigration policy. Conservative Republicans, with the help of some left-leaning Democrats, teamed up to derail an immigration bill in the Senate on Thursday that would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.


Gov. wants to track gang parolees
The $48-million proposal calls for electronic monitoring, but Democrats opponents cite the high cost and unproven results.
By Evan Halper
Times Staff Writer

May 26, 2007

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the state to track scores of violent gang parolees the way it does sex offenders, monitoring them with ankle devices and maintaining a statewide database that records their movements.

On Friday, the governor proposed extending a pilot program — used to monitor 20 gang members in San Bernardino — to Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno as part of what he called a comprehensive strategy to combat gang violence.

"We are targeting gangs inside and outside the prisons," Schwarzenegger said at an Oakland news conference.

"We will also treat convicted gang members like sex offenders," he said.

"The worst of the worst will get" global positioning system "bracelets so we know exactly where they are and what they are doing. If they try to recruit new members or terrorize people in the community, we will know where they are and we will be able to bust them."

The plan, while applauded by some law enforcement and community groups, received faint praise from the Democrat-dominated Legislature, where members advocate a more preventive approach to gang violence.

Some Democrats suggested that the governor's $48-million proposal, which also modestly increases spending on job training, witness protection and activities for at-risk youths, lacks substance.

They question whether spending scarce resources on ankle bracelets, in particular, is the most effective way to fight crime.

"These little shots here and there don't seem to make a difference," said Assemblywoman Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), head of the Select Committee on Youth Violence Prevention.

"You need a coordinated plan with an overall strategy," she said.

Caballero said the ankle bracelet technology "is untested and very expensive."

The bracelets are so costly, in fact, that the state can afford to contribute only 20 to gang prevention efforts in each of the three new cities targeted for the program. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James Tilton said the expense comes mainly from two areas. Each black anklet is equipped with an antenna and costs more than $3,000 per year. The state also spends thousands of dollars more paying parole agents to monitor the movements that the bracelets record.

The state is already preoccupied with getting 3,000 of the bracelets on high-risk sex offenders, the result of an initiative approved by voters in November.

"What we're trying to do is move this program forward, to show it can be successful with gang members," Tilton said. He said that if the state succeeds, the program would be expanded.

Department officials say that in San Bernardino, the bracelets have helped police locate gang members at the scenes of several crimes, including a carjacking, drug trafficking and shots fired at police officers.

The tracking device also helped police locate the suspect in the murder of a gang member who was wearing a bracelet by tracing where the victim had been before he was killed.

Since March 2006, the 20 devices have been used to monitor a total of 50 gang members in San Bernardino. Department officials say that more than half have been returned to custody for parole violations or other crimes.

The issue of gang violence has been prominent in the Capitol this year as the governor and legislators struggle to find solutions to what statistics show is a rapidly growing problem. Figures released by the administration show that gang-related crimes in Los Angeles were up 14% last year, even as overall crime declined. In Compton and Santa Ana, more than two of every three homicides recorded in 2005 were gang-related.

The state Department of Justice estimates that California has more than 420,000 gang members.

"The state must coordinate the fight against gangs," Schwarzenegger said.

"When we crack down in one area they pop up somewhere else…. We are telling the criminals the crackdown on them will not stop anymore at the city limits or the county line," Schwarzenegger said.

His plan includes the creation of a state anti-gang coordinator who would work with local agencies, as well as the creation of regional task forces and a centralized criminal intelligence and analysis unit that would track gang activity in the state's 22 prisons.

Caballero says some of the ideas merit consideration, but criticizes the overall plan as being light on prevention strategies such as job training and other social service programs.

She notes that in Los Angeles, city and county officials estimate that they use more than $900 million in local, state and federal money each year combating gang violence.

The governor's proposal to add $48 million in spending statewide, she said, "stops short of proposing significant new investment in anti-gang programs."

JUDICIAL WATCH - Illegals and Identity Theft


May 23, 2007
More Illegal Immigrants Steal Identities To Work
Confirming that illegal immigrants often commit serious crimes after entering the United States, more than 100 were arrested for using the stolen identities of legal residents to work at a big poultry plant in a rural Missouri town.

Federal agents arrested the illegal aliens this week at George’s Processing Plant in Butterfield, a village of about 400 residents in southwest Missouri. The plant actually employs more than twice the town’s population, about 1,000, and many are illegal aliens who used fake documents to obtain work.

Federal agents say the arrested illegal immigrants—from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—used “legitimate” drivers’ licenses and Social Security numbers purchased fraudulently from a dealer.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who participated in the year-long identity theft investigation said that this case is particularly troubling due to the existence of Social Security and identity fraud in addition to the numerous immigration-related violations.

This is hardly an isolated case. Thousands of illegal immigrants across the nation have been arrested in the last few months for stealing the identities of Americans to obtain jobs. Since December federal agents have arrested violators at meat-packing plants in six states and many of them had pre existing criminal warrants for other serious offenses.

Victims of their identity theft crimes include unemployed at-home mothers who received large tax bills for jobs in other states held by illegal immigrants who stole their Social Security numbers.

Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life. To view the Judicial Watch Internet site click here (

MEXICAN CONSULATES - Expanding the Mexican Welfare State & Occupaton

Debate Raging, Mexico Adds to Consulates in U.S.
On the surface, there was nothing extraordinary about a certain government office in Little Rock, Ark., the other day as paperwork was signed, names were called, fees were paid, waits were endured and computer keyboards went tap, tap, tap.

Just the workaday humdrum of official government business — the government of Mexico, that is, in yet another new consulate, the country’s 47th in the United States.

Mexico’s consulates function as a safety net of sorts, issuing passports and identification cards that facilitate banking and offering assistance when Mexican immigrants, an estimated 11 million, run into trouble.

Increasingly, they are also acting as influential free agents in a broken immigration system that Congress is trying to overhaul. As the consulate that opened last month in Little Rock illustrates, the Mexican government is following its citizens far from the border into the growing quarters of Latino migration, much of it illegal.

Since 2000, consulates have opened in places where immigration from Mexico has soared, including St. Paul; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Omaha and Raleigh, N.C.

“They have every right to open one up,” said State Representative Jon Woods, a Republican from northwest Arkansas who won office last year on a platform that included combating illegal immigration. “But the problem I have with it opening up is it blatantly screams that illegal immigration is a problem in Arkansas. That’s the main reason it opened up.”

Under the bill being debated in Washington, legal status would be offered to most of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, while border security would be strengthened and penalties for employers of illegal immigrants would be increased. Yesterday, the Senate voted to keep a provision in the bill that would allow hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers to enter the country each year.

Rafael Laveaga, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy, declined to comment on what effect the legislation might have on consulates, though his government has said it supports efforts to increase legal immigration and has called the current bill “an important step toward the approval of comprehensive immigration reform this year.”

A recent analysis of census data suggested that Arkansas had the country’s fastest-growing Hispanic population this decade, set at 70,000 in 2005, a 48 percent increase over five years. At least half of the newcomers were illegal immigrants, according to the analysis commissioned by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation from the Urban Institute and released last month.

Consulate officials in Little Rock acknowledge that the 6,000-square-foot piece of Mexican territory occupying a former medical clinic serves all Mexican citizens, regardless of immigration status.

“We can’t interfere with the laws of the United States, but the consulates are certainly involved when individuals’ rights are not exercised or are violated or when there are cases of families that have been separated, with the parents deported and the children remaining here,” Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, said in a speech on April 25 at the opening of the consulate in Little Rock.

Roberto González, 20, a construction worker living here illegally, waited recently in the lobby for the identification card the Mexican government issues known as the “matrícula consular.” The card is honored in the United States by many police agencies, employers and — most important — by banks, which are used by countless immigrants to send billions of dollars home every year. But it is a lightning rod for critics of illegal immigration, who see it as a demonstration of the Mexican government’s helping its citizens live in the United States illegally.

“I will be able to open bank accounts, pay water and light bills, have an easier life here with the consulate and the documents they give,” said Mr. González, one of more than 200 people who have received a card since the consulate opened.

Andrés Chao, the Mexican consul in Little Rock, looks past the criticism. Mr. Chao, a career diplomat who has worked in New York City and in The Hague, said he was glad to be in Arkansas at a time when the Mexican immigrant population, while small, was growing rapidly.

“This is like the birth of a community,” Mr. Chao said, driving around town and pointing at the number of businesses catering to immigrants.

For Mr. Chao, the going has been smooth. The consulate has served about 50 people a day, and he says he expects the number to grow as word spreads that it is open.

The opening of the Little Rock consulate follows the one in St. Paul, which opened in June 2005. In New Orleans, where growing numbers of Mexican immigrants are working on post-Hurricane Katrina construction, plans are in the works to reopen a consulate, which closed for budget reasons nearly five years ago. There are 539 foreign consulates in the United States, and Mexico has more than any other country. (After Mexico, Canada has 19, Japan 17 and Britain 12).

In addition to issuing identification cards and passports, the consulates perform the usual consular functions: assisting citizens who are arrested, helping arrange the return to Mexico of the dead and fostering trade and cultural ties.

But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a public policy institute in Washington that is opposed to illegal immigration, said the spread of Mexican consulates and their advocacy of the identification card amounted to an end run around American immigration laws.

Mr. Krikorian said Mexico went further than other countries that issue such cards, including the United States, by lobbying banks and law enforcement agencies to recognize the cards as valid identification, knowing full well that most legal residents would not need such a card.

The Mexican government in the past few years has issued nearly three million of what it calls a high-security version of the card, which is accepted by more than 160 banks and recognized by 1,100 police departments.

“These consulates are not like most other countries’ consulates,” Mr. Krikorian said. “They are not there simply to help their countrymen if there is a problem with law enforcement or to promote Mexican business in the United States.”

The card was “one of the major areas of activity” at consulates, he said, adding, “The point being to ‘document’ the undocumented and make an end run around Congress.”

The Bush administration has not blocked use of the cards, saying in a policy statement in 2004 that banks must have “flexible standards” in deciding what identification to accept.

Mexican government officials said they were only serving the needs of a growing population. The 11 million Mexican-born immigrants living in the United States, as estimated by the Pew Hispanic Center, account for about 10 percent of all Mexicans.

Jorge G. Castañeda, a former foreign minister of Mexico and a professor at New York University, said Mexico had long had an abundance of consulates in the United States, including more than 10 on or near the border, where cultural bonds and conflict run deep.

“Why don’t other countries have more? Because they don’t have a border like we do,” Mr. Castañeda said. “It’s pretty straightforward. And other consulates are in large metro areas where there are very important Mexican communities.”

Before the consulate in Little Rock opened, people in Arkansas who sought Mexican consular services had to go to Dallas, a five-hour drive, not an easy trip for the many immigrants who lack cars or have limited time off from work.

The study by the Urban Institute found that the vast majority of illegal immigrants in Arkansas were from Mexico, with a smattering of Central Americans. Most poured in to work at chicken processing plants and fill construction and service industry jobs. A small percentage moved into professional jobs, the analysis found.

It estimated that a little more than half of all new immigrants in Arkansas were there illegally, but Randy Kapps, the lead demographer on the study, said it was impossible to be precise.

It was no coincidence, Mr. Chao said, that Mexico chose to open a consulate in the state that is home to Wal-Mart and other businesses with which it would like to strengthen ties. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former President Vicente Fox of Mexico promoted trade, in addition to the immigrant population, as important selling points when they broached the idea of a consulate here four years ago.

“There is a lot of investment in Mexico from Arkansas businesses and a lot of opportunity,” Mr. Chao said, sipping water bottled by a company that wants to expand into the Mexican market.

But the heart of the mission here, he said, is serving people like Ramiro Givara, a 31-year-old construction worker who dropped by the consulate the other day and walked out with a freshly minted identification card.

“This is so much easier for us,” Mr. Givara said. “It is like having part of Mexico here.”


Totalization is a Bad Idea

January 8, 2007

Through a Freedom of Information Act Request, a private group recently obtained a copy of a 2004 agreement between the United States and Mexico that will allow hundreds of thousands of noncitizens to receive Social Security benefits.
The agreement creates a so-called “totalization” plan between the two nations. Totalization is nothing new. The first such agreements were made in the late 1970s between the United States and several foreign governments simply to make sure American citizens living abroad did not suffer from double taxation with respect to Social Security taxes. From there, however, totalization agreements have become vehicles for noncitizens to become eligible for U.S. Social Security benefits. The new agreement with Mexico would make an estimated 160,000 Mexican citizens eligible in the next five years.

Ultimately, the bill for Mexicans working legally in the U.S. could reach one billion dollars by 2050, when the estimated Mexican beneficiaries could reach 300,000. Worse still, an estimated five million Mexicans working illegally in the United States could be eligible for the program. According to press reports, a provision in the Social Security Act allows illegal immigrants to receive Social Security benefits if the United States and another country have a totalization agreement.

It’s important to note that Congress, like the American people, heretofore had not seen this totalization agreement. This decision to expand our single largest entitlement program was made with no input from the legislative branch of government. If the president signs it, Congress will have to affirmatively act to override him and in essence veto the agreement. This is the opposite of how it’s supposed to work.

There are obvious reasons to oppose a Social Security totalization agreement with Mexico. First, our Social Security system already faces trillions of dollars in future shortages as the Baby Boomer generation retires and fewer young workers pay into the system. Adding hundreds of thousand of noncitizens to the Social Security rolls can only hasten the day of reckoning.

Second, Social Security never was intended to serve as an individual foreign aid program for noncitizens abroad. Remember, there is no real Social Security trust fund, and the distinction between income taxes and payroll taxes is entirely artificial. The Social Security contributions made by noncitizens are spent immediately as general revenues. So while it’s unfortunate that some are forced to pay into a system from which they might never receive a penny, the same can be said of younger American citizens. If noncitizens wish to obtain Social Security benefits, or any other U.S. government entitlements, they should seek to become U.S. citizens.

Also, totalization agreements allow noncitizens to quality for Social Security benefits by working in the U.S. as little as 18 months. A Mexican citizen could work here for only a year and a half, return to Mexico, and retire with full U.S. benefits. This is grossly unfair to Americans who must work more quarters even to qualify for benefits-- especially younger people who face the possibility that there may be nothing left when it is their turn to retire.

Those in favor of sending U.S. Social Security benefits to Mexican citizens argue that crushing poverty in Mexico demands some form of U.S. assistance to that country's aged. While poverty in Mexico truly is deplorable and saddening, the fact remains that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact what is essentially another foreign aid program.


Immigrant Law Goes to Voters in Texas Town

Immigrant Law Goes to Voters in Texas Town
Contentious Ordinance Would Prohibit Renting To Illegal Residents

By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 12, 2007; A03

FARMERS BRANCH, Tex. -- On Saturday, voters in this Dallas suburb will decide whether to keep a local ordinance designed to do what city leaders believe the federal government has forsaken: control the number of illegal immigrants.

It will be the first time that such a law will be subjected to a popular vote instead of merely the scrutiny of a government body.

The local law, already the subject of four lawsuits, emotional community debate and scholarly reports, would prohibit landlords from renting to most undocumented immigrants. The fine for noncompliance would be $500 a day.

When passed, the law was billed as essential to the well-being and safety of the city and a key to "revitalizing and reinvigorating" this bedroom community, whose population has remained 28,000 since 1970 but whose demographics have changed dramatically. In 1970, the city was 100 percent white; today 40 percent of its residents are minority, mostly Hispanic. Entire strip malls are lined with mom-and-pop shops catering to Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants; large, older apartment complexes on one end of the city, the targets of the local ordinance, are filled with Spanish-speaking renters.

"I don't believe that if every illegal alien moves out of Farmers Branch, every problem in Farmers Branch is solved," said Tim O'Hare, a 37-year-old member of the City Council who was born and raised here and who sponsored the rental ordinance. "But it is one of the things that needs to be done. . . . If the federal government enforced its own laws, it would be easier on the city of Farmers Branch."

Opponents, including apartment building owners, contend the ordinance is not only discriminatory, but would force landlords to act as federal immigration officers and would put the job of regulating immigration, a federal responsibility, in local hands.

"This has also given people, for some reason, the right to voice their bigotry in a very public way," said Ana Reyes, 33, who was born in Indiana but has lived most of her life in Farmers Branch and is working with the group, Let the Voters Decide, to defeat the ordinance at the polls. "I've been called a wetback and yelled at to 'go back to Mexico.' "

Almost 90 cities or counties nationwide have proposed, passed or rejected laws with similar landlord prohibitions or penalties for businesses that employ undocumented workers. Officials in Hazleton, Pa., the first city in the country to adopt such laws, are awaiting a federal judge's decision in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of its ordinance. Hazleton proposed fining landlords $1,000 per day for every illegal immigrant living on their property and revoking the licenses of businesses that hire undocumented workers. In Escondido, Calif., officials abandoned a similar rental ordinance after spending $200,000 defending it and projecting another $800,000 in bills to continue the legal battle.

Last November, the Farmers Branch City Council passed its rental prohibition, the first such ordinance in Texas, and said it would go into effect in January. The council also declared English the official language of the city and passed a resolution to allow jail officials to attend a federal training program on enforcing immigration law.

Under pressure, the council revamped the ordinance in January. And when opponents gathered enough signatures to force Saturday's referendum, they agreed to await the results. Four separate lawsuits have been filed against the city by apartment owners, a resident and civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations. If approved, the rental law will take effect May 22, but opponents have said they would seek a court order barring its enforcement.

Reyes and volunteers with Let the Voters Decide, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and other opponents of the law are hoping the enthusiasm shown last spring by supporters of the big pro-immigrant march in Dallas will carry over into Saturday's election. More than a million people -- hundreds of thousands of them in Dallas, including some Farmers Branch residents -- marched in dozens of cities nationwide to protest a U.S. House bill that would, among other things, have made illegal immigrant status a felony rather than a civil violation.

By the end of early voting here, which concluded Tuesday, election officials said that more than 3,000 residents, or almost 21.5 percent of registered voters, had cast ballots. The past two municipal elections have drawn only about 700 votes, officials said, indicating a high level of interest in the referendum. About 1,200 of the registered voters are Latino.

Both sides have recently brought out local public officials, current and past, to support their positions. The opponents talk about the futility of passing a law that will keep the city fighting lawsuits for months at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded legal fees. The supporters call such proclamations "scare tactics."

Two City Council seats are also on the ballot, and the five candidates vying for them built their campaigns on their pro- or anti-ordinance positions.

"I want to be a part of what makes Farmers Branch move forward and to be part of the Farmers Branch revitalization program," said candidate Tim Scott at a recent "meet and greet" in a neighborhood of residents who largely supported the ordinance prohibiting renting to illegal immigrants. "I don't want to live in a city that has to deal with gang violence."

Jennifer Maddux, who hosted the gathering, agreed. "Why wait for the federal government while we go under? They let it get this way."

But across town, 20-year resident Jeff Rotundo disagreed. "I have more problems with the fire ants in Farmers Branch than I do with the Hispanics or illegal immigrants," he said. "When I first got here, it was open arms to everybody. Now the town is divided. I think it's a racial issue. . . . I'm a little embarrassed to be a resident here at this point."


Reid Forces New Senate Debate on Immigration
He Would Revisit 2006, But GOP Is Warier Now
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2007; A04
With bipartisan talks on immigration near a standstill, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) moved yesterday to bring last year's broad overhaul of immigration laws back to the floor of the Senate next week, appealing to President Bush to save what could be his last hope for a major second-term domestic achievement.
The legislation -- which couples a border security crackdown with a guest-worker program and new avenues for undocumented immigrants to work legally in the country -- passed the Senate a year ago this month with the support of 62 members, 23 of them Republican, only to die in the House. With Democrats now in control of Congress and with the president eager for an accomplishment, immigrant rights groups believe the prospects for a final deal are far better this year.
But Senate Republicans, even those who helped craft last year's bill, say the political environment has shifted decisively against that measure and toward a tougher approach. Four Republican architects of the 2006 bill released a letter yesterday, pleading with Reid to hold off on the debate while bipartisan talks continue on new legislation.
"Last year's bill is not the solution for this year," said Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.), one of those architects who is now general chairman of the Republican Party.
But Reid decided to force the issue, devoting the Senate's next two weeks to hammering out a comprehensive bill. If negotiators reach a deal on a new proposal in the coming days, he promised to bring it to a vote. "There are all kinds of excuses people could offer," Reid said. "But how can we have anything that's more fair than taking a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis, and using that as the instrument" to build a new version?
Immigration poses political peril for both parties. It has badly split GOP-leaning business groups eager for immigrant labor from party-base conservatives furious at what they see as an invasion of illegal immigrants. Democrats must bridge a chasm between old-line labor groups that fear that immigrant workers are driving down wages and burgeoning service-worker unions that see low-wage workers as the backbone of a new labor movement.
Both parties are battling for the allegiance of Latino voters. Indeed, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) offered immigrant groups virtual veto power over this year's bill.
"Unless the stakeholders are going to believe that it's worthy of their support, no matter what we do here in the United States Senate, it isn't going to work," he said.
And, this year, the issue is tangled in presidential politics. One White House hopeful, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), has all but renounced a career-long stance favorable to immigrant rights. And the co-author of last year's bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has been largely absent from this year's negotiations, as he soft-pedals his pro-immigration stance.
McCain spokeswoman Eileen McMenamin said yesterday that the senator remains committed to a bill that would strengthen border controls, back guest workers and offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
But Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said McCain's absence from the negotiations has been "a big factor" in the rising tide of Republican opposition. Another factor is a president whose authority on Capitol Hill is in steep decline. "The president's approval ratings do not exactly create a dynamic political force," Durbin said.
In that vacuum, Republican senators who opposed last year's bill have emerged as key players in this year's battle, and they have already succeeded in raising issues that were barely discussed in 2006. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), an ardent opponent of last year's bill, said the measure got only so many GOP votes because Republican senators expected the final bill to be far tougher after emerging from negotiations with House GOP hard-liners. With Democrats now in charge of the House, Senate Republicans are taking a tougher stand, he said.
Senators are nearing agreement on some of the most contentious issues. Once again, an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants would probably get new avenues to find legal work and earn citizenship once they have established a strong work record, cleared a criminal-background check, and paid penalties and back taxes. Beefed-up border security would be linked to tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and to new tools for businesses to screen job applicants.
But Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over the flow of new immigrants. Republicans, with the White House's backing, are proposing a three-year temporary-worker program that would allow 400,000 new workers to enter the country each year, provided they return to their home countries once their visas expire. A much smaller number, perhaps 20,000, would be able to apply for a work visa that could lead to legal permanent residency.
Even more controversial is a GOP effort to change current laws that allow legal U.S. residents to bring relatives into the country. Republicans want to drop large categories from that family immigration system, blocking the inflow of adult children and siblings of U.S. residents and capping the number of parents allowed to migrate. That move would make room for more skilled workers and educated professionals.
Last year's bill would have allowed guest workers to remain in the country indefinitely and work toward citizenship.
With the divisions so deep, Republican Senate leadership aides privately said that the bill is "on life support." Democrats were no more optimistic. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the fate of comprehensive immigration legislation rests with Bush.
"The president has got to be personally involved," Leahy said. "He cannot just send up Cabinet members and ask them to speak with a few members of the president's party and think that that's going to get you through."


Border crackdown jams US federal courts
Fingerprinting of immigration detainees and prosecution of repeat border-crossers are driving the heavier caseloads.
By Faye Bowers | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The US government's crackdown on illegal immigration is resulting in so many more felony charges against foreigners that the federal courts serving the Southwest border are overwhelmed and reaching for the panic button.

The rising caseloads in five US district courts are a direct result of the beefed-up border patrol. Though tighter border security is deterring illegal entry, resulting in fewer arrests, border agents now have the manpower and resources to be vigilant about checking those in custody for criminal connections and outstanding warrants. They are also increasingly filing more-serious felony charges against repeat border-crossers, sending those cases straight to US district courts in the border area.

"The government front-loaded this system," says former immigration judge Joe Vail, now director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Houston. "It has almost tripled the size of the border patrol since 1996, and last year brought in the National Guard, but has done nothing to increase the personnel they need to process and adjudicate these cases, including federal court judges, prosecutors, federal public defenders, plus the support personnel you need to do all this."

View from Judge Vázquez's bench

It's a situation with which Chief Judge Martha Vázquez is all too familiar. From her bench at federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., she presides over the busiest of America's 94 federal court districts. Just last week she was interrupted in her courtroom to deal with a life-threatening emergency involving a prisoner who had agreed to testify against a criminal organization – but had then been jailed with members of that same group.

"It takes a lot of choreography to keep those defendants away from each other, and in this case each agency involved thought the other had taken care of it," a weary Judge Vázquez said during a phone interview late Friday, having directed that the prisoner in question be moved to a safe location. "But this is what happens when our caseloads become huge. There's not enough marshals, enough US attorneys, judges, court officers, courtrooms – not enough of anything."

The US began laying the groundwork for the current prosecutorial overload as far back as 1996, with enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, says Mr. Vail. That law provided funds for the border patrol to more than double the number of agents along the Southwest border. It also introduced what's known as "reinstatement of removal," which means that any illegal immigrant who'd been deported by a US immigration judge – a misdemeanor – would be automatically subjected to reinstatement of that previous order if caught again trying to sneak into the United States. No new hearing before an immigration judge would be needed.

Moreover, under that law the illegal entrant can be charged with illegal entry after deportation, a felony – an option now being applied more often by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

Fingerprinting leads to more cases

An advance in technology also helps CBP and ICE generate more felony arrests. By the end of 2004, all border patrol sectors had been hooked up with the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. All people detained at the border are fingerprinted, and that digital print is immediately transmitted to the FBI in Washington. Within minutes, a report comes back indicating whether the detainee has been caught and deported before, and whether that detainee has a criminal history.

"It is one of the most useful tools we have," says Gus Soto, supervisory border patrol agent in Tucson. "We're finding that for every 10 people we're apprehending, at least one has a criminal record in the US, and these are people we are, of course, prosecuting."

Tucson is the busiest of the border patrol's Southwest sectors, with the most apprehensions of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs. Although apprehensions are down in Tucson – as well as along the entire Southwest border – the numbers of prosecutions are up.

In March 2007, for example, US agents apprehended 52,688 individuals in the Tucson sector, compared with 63,583 in March 2006. But it processed 559 prosecutions this past March – 64 more than in the previous March.

Prosecutors, defenders struggle, too

The added caseload has challenged a justice system already under strain. The US Attorney's office in Arizona, for example, was essentially under a hiring freeze for the past two years and only now is receiving enough funds to fully staff its offices – and pursue some of these immigration-related cases. The Federal Public Defenders offices are also inundated with clients to represent.

"The system is overwhelmed, and it's a lot harder to provide individualized attention to the client that is, frankly, required of us," says Milagros Cisneros, an assistant federal public defender in Phoenix. "The [government's] emphasis on numbers [of cases referred for prosecution] is making it very, very difficult to do this job."

John Roll, chief judge of both federal district courts in Arizona, feels the full impact of those numbers. "Our plate is full," says Judge Roll. "You can't add an unlimited number of agents and not have additional judicial resources to process those individuals."

He sees a "tremendous difference" between 1991, when he was first appointed to the bench, and now. The federal court in Tucson where he works, which is closer to the border than the US court in Phoenix, handles two-thirds of all criminal cases for the state of Arizona, Roll says. Between September 1996 and December 2006, the federal caseload increased by 94 percent in the state. The federal caseload just for the district court in Tucson jumped 113 percent in that 10-year period. In 1996, there were 1,800 criminal felony filings, and in 2006, there were more than 3,500, Roll says.

Moreover, he adds, while the average number of sentencings per federal judge is 100 a year, each of the five Tucson judges now averages 604 per year.

The Arizona district of the federal court is ranked fourth-busiest of the 94 districts in the number of felony filings per judgeship. The District of New Mexico is ranked first, followed by the District of Western Texas and the District of Southern Texas.

Answer: more federal judgeships?

Sens. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico and Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona introduced legislation late last month to create 10 new permanent and temporary federal judgeships for the US district courts to deal with the backlog of immigration-related cases.

"Increasing numbers of apprehensions along the Southwest border have led to a tremendous backlog of immigration-related cases in the federal courts," Senator Kyl said in an April 24 statement. "Adding more judges to the courts where the backlog is the greatest, as this bill does, will help alleviate the burden on our court system."

That help can't come soon enough for Chief Judges Roll and Vázquez. Vázquez says she was confronted with another emergency Friday. She is looking into an allegation that a young man detained and held in a jail along the New Mexico border didn't receive proper medical care and, as a result, his foot had to be amputated.

"I find that disconcerting as a chief judge because we have so many more in our system than it was meant to bear," says Vázquez. "If we decide as a nation we are going to be aggressive with a particular crime, so be it. But the resources have to follow."

SALT LAKE CITY - Organized Smuggling Operation 8 KILLED

8 Illegal Immigrants Killed in Utah Crash
SALT LAKE CITY, April 16 — Eight men were killed Monday after a sport utility vehicle carrying a driver and at least 14 other illegal immigrants rolled over on a remote desert highway in southeastern Utah, the authorities said.

“This has all the earmarks of an organized smuggling operation,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “For smugglers, these aren’t human beings; they’re human cargo.”

The driver of the vehicle, an eight-passenger Chevrolet Suburban, apparently swerved about 3:30 a.m. and lost control, said Trooper Preston Raban, a Utah Highway Patrol spokesman in Salt Lake City.

The truck rolled several times on a straight and flat stretch of Utah State Route 191, about 11 miles north of the Arizona border near Bluff, Utah, Trooper Raban said. All the passengers were ejected from the vehicle.

Ms. Kice said the occupants, who were all men, were illegal immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala.

Lt. Todd Peterson of the patrol’s southeastern Utah division arrived at the scene shortly after the accident. “There wasn’t a mirror or piece of glass left in the vehicle,” Lieutenant Peterson said.

The driver, the only occupant wearing a seat belt, ran away, the authorities said. San Juan County sheriff’s deputies followed his footprints through the desert for nearly eight miles and found him hiding in the brush, Lieutenant Peterson said.

The driver was identified as Rigoberto Salis-López, 30, of Guatemala. Mr. Salis-López was taken into custody by immigration authorities.

Six of the passengers died at the scene, Lieutenant Peterson said, and two more died later at hospitals in Arizona and Colorado. One passenger remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Trooper Raban said identifying the dead and notifying relatives in Latin America had been complicated because none of the passengers had identification, nor did they appear to be related or even to know one another. Mexican consular officials have been assisting, he said.

Excessive speed did not appear to have contributed to the crash, Lieutenant Peterson said. Investigators suspect that the driver may have fallen asleep or turned sharply to avoid a coyote or a large farm animal.

The driver could be charged with fleeing the scene of a crime under Utah laws, but any criminal case would be handled through the federal courts by immigration officials.

New federal sentencing guidelines allow for “very, very severe penalties” in smuggling cases that result in death, Ms. Kice said.

The agency and local law enforcement officials in Utah and elsewhere have seen an increase in smuggling cases, often involving similarly overloaded vehicles that have compromised handling and safety, Ms. Kice said.

More smugglers are also traveling at night to avoid detection, adding to risk of drivers’ falling asleep, she said.

The Suburban, which had not been reported as stolen, was legally registered to a man in Mesa, Ariz., Trooper Raban said.

Ms. Kice said the agency hoped to “take the case farther up into the organization” of the smuggling operation.

In the nation’s worst human smuggling disaster, 19 passengers were found dead of suffocation, heat and thirst in a sealed tractor trailer on May 14, 2003, in Victoria, Tex.



The consulate serves four counties - Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey - where 500,000 to 700,000 Mexican nationals live.

Free legal help for Mexicans expands
By Jessie Mangaliman
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:04/20/2007 01:33:54 AM PDT

In a first of its kind alliance, the Santa Clara County chapter of an immigration lawyer's organization is teaming up with the Mexican Consulate in San Jose to provide free legal consultation to Mexican immigrants from four Bay Area counties.

The goal, organizers said, is to steer vulnerable immigrants away from unscrupulous "notarios" or people posing as immigration legal experts, and get them proper legal help.

Officials of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Consul General Bruno Figueroa said the pilot project, scheduled to begin late in May, is the first in the country. If successful, organizers are hoping the model will be duplicated in other communities in the country.

"Without a doubt, it's a program that addresses a great need," Figueroa said.

Spanish-speaking volunteer lawyers will give free short consultations twice a month to immigrants at the consulate on North First Street. After screening, they will be referred to AILA lawyers or non-profit legal service organizations.

Each month, about 350 Mexicans seek legal help from the consulate for a range of problems regarding deaths, divorces, child custody and insurance. But many of them are seeking answers to immigration problems.

The consulate serves four counties - Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey - where 500,000 to 700,000 Mexican nationals live.

A legal staff of four people field the queries each month and refer most of them to an informal network of lawyers in the area and non-profit groups that provide legal help to immigrants.

But the need in the community has always exceeded the consulate's capacity, Figueroa said, before signing the formal agreement Thursday afternoon with AILA's county chair, Alisa Thomas, during a news conference and orientation at the consulate.

"The value of this service is to allow individuals who do have a chance to straighten their legal status," said Daniel Shanfield, incoming chapter chair of AILA and the one who proposed the project. "By getting people on the right track, we can keep them from the pitfalls."

"A program like this can help keep mixed-status families together in the United States," Shanfield said.

After Thursday's news conference, Shanfield conducted orientation for the dozen volunteer lawyers who signed up for the program.

"It's a great idea," said Adel Olvera, director of the Immigration and Citizenship program at the Center for Employment Training in San Jose. "We're thankful there's this additional support now."

Like the consulate, groups like CET scramble to find free or low-cost legal advice for the immigrants seeking help with immigration applications.

"It will really help people get some good direction to begin their inquiry at least," said Karen Seiden, a private immigration attorney in Sunnyvale and an AILA member who is participating in the project. Seiden is also staff attorney at CET.

In the past, groups like CET would send a legal representative to the consulate in San Francisco to do consultations, she said.

"Formalizing this is a good thing," Seiden said. "You'll get a flow of attorneys and referrals to appropriate agencies."


Villaraigosa offers new plan to fight gangs
In the State of the City address, Antonio Villaraigosa says he will appoint a gang czar and target areas that have had more gang violence.
By Duke Helfand and Patrick McGreevy
Times Staff Writers

April 19, 2007

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday unveiled a wide-ranging strategy to curb the spread of gang violence in some of Los Angeles' most violent neighborhoods, saying he would steer young people away from gang life by combining police suppression with stepped-up prevention and intervention programs.

Outlining the new approach during his second State of the City address, Villaraigosa said he would appoint a gang czar in his office and target eight "gang reduction zones" in South Los Angeles, the Eastside, the northeast Valley and other areas that have experienced major increases in gang violence.

In his speech at a San Fernando Valley high school, the mayor promised to devote $168 million, including $15 million in new funds, in the coming year to anti-gang enforcement and to counseling, job placement programs, parenting classes and even tattoo-removal services. The funding requires City Council approval.

Calling gang violence "the most important challenge we face," Villaraigosa pledged to expand the anti-gang efforts to 10 additional zones, assuming he can secure an additional $30 million from the state.

"Our strategy is tough on crime and tough on the root causes of crime," Villaraigosa told the audience of 600 in the auditorium of East Valley High School. On hand were members of the City Council, the Los Angeles Police Department's command staff and the Los Angeles School Board.

"Take it from a former high school dropout: Fighting gangs is fundamentally a question of putting people on a path to a productive life," he added.

Villaraigosa also devoted some of his remarks to other pressing issues.

He spoke about the city's growing economic disparities, saying Los Angeles is "becoming a city of marble and cardboard, a city of prodigious wealth and withering poverty."

He also talked about his ongoing campaign to rein in city expenses and his more recent effort to forge a new partnership with the school board — a frequent adversary in the mayor's attempts to help run the school system.

Casting himself once again as a fiscal conservative, Villaraigosa said the budget he will release today calls for reducing the city's $231-million structural deficit by $138 million. He also pledged to expand gridlock reduction teams on Wilshire Boulevard to the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles, and he said he soon would announce a comprehensive plan for the city's role in battling global climate change.

But gang violence dominated Villaraigosa's remarks, reflecting his priorities to date this year. Along with his speech, he released a 36-page plan for a "comprehensive, collaborative and communitywide approach" to overcoming gangs.

Gang reduction zones would be in five areas already using police officers, prosecutors and probation officers to target violent gang members. They are in Boyle Heights, Watts, South Los Angeles, areas north of downtown and the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Those areas, plus three others on the Eastside and South Los Angeles, would be flooded with a mix of economic development programs, social services, job placement counseling, gang intervention groups and other efforts aimed at helping paroled convicts reenter neighborhoods as productive citizens.

The city would collaborate with the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide some of the services.

Villaraigosa said he would appoint a director for gang reduction and youth development in his office to coordinate gang-reduction programs in 19 city departments.

In addition to that, the new director will oversee an evaluation of the city's existing 23 prevention and intervention programs, including the troubled L.A. Bridges program, and decide which ones to continue after September.

The mayor's proposal won guarded praise from elected leaders, gang experts and academics who study the issue.

"With the energy the mayor gives on a daily basis, we are poised to continue to move forward and grow the positive things we are doing and the positive changes we are making with our young people and the problems with gangs," said City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who heads a council ad-hoc committee on gangs.

Police Chief William J. Bratton applauded Villaraigosa's strategy, which was developed in concert with police, gang experts and neighborhood leaders.

"Mayor Villaraigosa's $168 million for gang prevention and intervention is the vital component missing from the city's gang plan," Bratton said.

Bo Taylor, president of the Unity One gang intervention program who was briefed by the mayor's office Wednesday, called the overall concept promising.

"It has an opportunity to do something good," Taylor said. "We just need to shape it."

Although generally supportive, gang expert Alex Alonso said some aspects of the proposal are worrying.

"How the money gets allocated would concern me," Alonso said. "Usually most of the budget goes toward suppression, but decades of pouring more money into suppression has not yielded acceptable reductions in gang violence. Intervention is where most of the money should be allocated."

Villaraigosa's prevention and intervention plan comes three months after he announced a stepped-up police enforcement effort focusing on the 11 most dangerous gangs in Los Angeles.

More than one-third of the money proposed for the gang effort — $68.2 million — goes to the Police Department, including $53 million for enforcement teams and an additional $6.2 million for police overtime on gang crackdown efforts.

The mayor borrowed heavily from a recent report by the Advancement Project Los Angeles, a nonprofit public policy advocacy group that had recommended a more ambitious proposal than the one he outlined: The group called on the city to target 12 "hot spots" with a greater mix of services, including economic development. It pegged the cost at $1 billion during the first 18 months.

The mayor's plan rejected the group's call for a new city department with its own gang czar, deciding instead to coordinate programs from his office.

Connie Rice, director of Advancement Project Los Angeles, applauded Villaraigosa for embracing one of Los Angeles' most intractable problems but predicted that the success of his strategy will hinge on whether the new gang director has independent authority.

"This is a start," Rice said. "But it's unclear whether this will take us down the right road."



April 17, 2007
Counting the Poor
It’s not official, but it’s virtually indisputable. Poverty in America is much more widespread than has been previously acknowledged.

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — were living in poverty in 2005. That means that four years into an economic expansion, the percentage of Americans defined as poor was higher than at the bottom of the last recession in late 2001, when it was 11.7 percent. But that’s not the worst of it. Recently, the bureau released 12 alternative measures of poverty, and all but one are higher than the official rate.

The alternative that hews most closely to the measurement criteria recommended by the National Academy of Sciences yields a 2005 poverty rate of 14.1 percent. That works out to 41.3 million poor Americans, 4.4 million more than were officially counted. Those higher figures indicate that millions of needy Americans are not getting government services linked to official poverty levels.

The census’s official measure basically looks only at whether a family has enough pretax income, plus cash benefits from the government, to pay for bare necessities. The academy’s criteria called for adding in the value of noncash government benefits like food stamps, and for subtracting expenses like out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related outlays, including child care expenses.

They also take into account geographical differences in the cost of living and the fact that poverty is relative. To be accurate, a poverty gauge cannot simply measure a family’s ability (or lack thereof) to subsist. It must also capture the extent to which the poor cannot afford the requisites of modern life.

All told, under the official measure, the poverty line for a family with two parents and two children is $19,806. Under the alternative it’s $22,841.

Lawmakers must listen to what the new numbers are telling them and, as a first step, instruct the Census Bureau to adopt the academy’s more realistic criteria. They must also realize that improvements in antipoverty programs — such as expanding the earned income tax credit for the working poor and providing better early education — are some of the best investments the nation can make.


Future for Los Angeles' middle class is uncertain
Rick Wartzman
California & Co.

April 13, 2007

You may remember the ruckus that arose a couple of years ago when a local Spanish-language television station, Channel 62, put up a billboard publicizing its newscasts. Next to the words "Los Angeles," the abbreviation "CA" was crossed out and "Mexico" written in its stead.

Many reacted angrily, saying the sign was glorifying illegal immigration. Others accused the complainers of being racist xenophobes and maintained that the ad was simply celebrating the region's Latino flavor.

Whatever you thought of the promotion, I'm here to tell you: We are, in at least one sense, perilously close to becoming Los Angeles, Mexico.

I am referring specifically to an L.A. area that finds itself deeply divided along class lines, with 250,000 millionaires, 1.6 million poor people (with annual incomes of about $30,000 for a family of four) and those in the middle facing a miserable squeeze.

Once the paragon of the American dream, Los Angeles in the last 25 years has become a place where the level of income inequality doesn't look too much different from what's found south of the border or in any number of developing nations.

And unless we make real strides in improving basic education and worker training — and do it fast — we're in danger of seeing the middle class hollowed out to a devastating degree.

In recent weeks, a gaggle of politicians, policymakers and civic leaders has begun to speak out on this issue — one that, more than any other perhaps, goes to the heart of what kind of society we hope to live in.

The Southern California Assn. of Governments last month held a symposium with the dispiriting title "The Middle Class on Life Support." At the same time, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles warned that the metropolis "in many ways remains 'A Tale of Two Cities' " — one that stands as "the entertainment and international trade capital of the nation" but where "the vast majority of workers toil in low-wage jobs that do not provide for basic living costs."

UCLA economists then took up the charge last week, convening a conference that examined, among other alarming questions, "Can there be a middle class without manufacturing?"

Not every indicator, thankfully, is running in the wrong direction. UCLA's Jerry Nickelsburg has found that in the last five years — with the aerospace industry's shakeout of the 1990s finally behind us — the gap between rich and poor in L.A. has actually eased somewhat.

In a report that has generated a fair bit of attention in the last several days, Nickelsburg used a measure known as the Gini Index (named for Corrado Gini, an Italian statistician and sociologist), in which zero signals perfectly even income distribution across the community and 100 represents the most extreme concentration of wealth.

L.A. had a mark of 53.57 in 1989, but that soared to 66.73 a decade later. By 2005, the figure had fallen back to 61.57 — a change that Nickelsburg attributes to the creation of thousands of relatively well-paying service-sector jobs: paralegals, graphic designers, audiovisual equipment technicians and more.

Even with that, Nickelsburg points out, Los Angeles is bound to have a wider disparity of income than the U.S. as a whole. (The nation's Gini score, based on different data, is 40.8.)

After all, an urban area with so many cultural amenities and fantastic weather will always be a lure for the rich. And the city's proximity to Latin America and the Pacific Rim will continue to make it a magnet for immigrants, many of whom arrive here poor.

Both of these, Nickelsburg says, are things that "we should celebrate, not be afraid of per se." He's right about that.

And yet, the truth is, I can't find much cause for cheer. As encouraging as his research is, it doesn't mitigate the harsh reality that so many here must grapple with:

• The typical worker in L.A. County earned 6.4% less in 2005 ($15 an hour) than he or she did in 1979 ($16.03), when adjusted for inflation, the California Budget Project found in an analysis issued last fall. Elsewhere in California, real wages went up 5.9% during that span.

• L.A. is the least affordable housing market in the country, with just 2% of homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2006 considered within reach for those earning the area's median family income ($56,200), according to a ranking by the National Assn. of Home Builders and Wells Fargo & Co.

• Nearly 30% of adults in L.A. County lacked medical insurance for all or part of the year in 2005, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research reported this month. That compared with less than 25% for California.

As Bill Pitkin, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles' research director, wrote in The Times on Sunday: "Overall income distribution is just one measure of inequality and does not provide a complete picture of the social and economic divisions that plague Los Angeles."

There is no single reason that the middle class is falling ever more behind. Those who've studied the matter point to a whole bunch of factors, including globalization; the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy; top corporate executives raking in obscene amounts of income at the expense of the rank and file; and the decline of unions.

Yet many agree that, especially locally, we need to concentrate on one particular fix: making sure that our current and future workers have the skills they need to adapt to a fast-moving, often technologically demanding job market.

"We're not going to succeed in building the middle class," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told those gathered at UCLA last week, "if we don't change the paradigm of failure in our public schools."

The mayor was fired up, and it was heartening to hear so many smart people offering ways to cure our city's ills. (You can — and should — weigh in with your own proposed solutions at

Some believe that we're making progress. When it comes to turning around public education, "we're much further along than we were five years ago," says Russell Goldsmith, chairman of City National Bank and the head of a committee on jobs and the economy that the mayor formed last year. He cites the rise of charter schools around L.A. and Villaraigosa's focus on education as big positives.

I'm less sure. All the talk is great; the forums are stimulating. But I'm worried that we're running out of time to act.

"While we have stepped away from the income inequality levels of Mexico and other developing countries," Nickelsburg notes, "we are not very far away."

If we continue down our current path too much longer — with 4 out of every 10 ninth-graders in the county unlikely to graduate from high school — never mind being labeled Los Angeles, Mexico.

Try Los Angeles, Honduras. Or Los Angeles, Nepal. Or Los Angeles, Zimbabwe.

You'll be able to take your pick.