“Whatever starts in California unfortunately has an inclination to spread.”
—President Jimmy Carter
On a Sunday afternoon late in June, Tony Bologna was driving home with his sons, Michael and Matthew, from a family barbecue. In San Francisco’s Excelsior district Bologna got stuck in an intersection, temporarily blocking a car from making a left-hand turn. Bologna began backing up, but evidently not quickly enough. Gunfire from an AK-47 erupted. Tony Bologna and Michael died on the spot. Matthew died two days later. The alleged shooter is Edwin Ramos, a native of El Salvador, member of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) street gang, and an illegal alien. He is currently in jail, charged with three counts of murder.
One would assume that Ramos has been flying under the radar and that this was the first time he had come into contact with the authorities. Not hardly. He was arrested in March when police stopped him for driving a car with illegally tinted windows and no front license plate. In the car with Ramos was another MS-13 gang member, whom police observed hiding something. A search revealed a gun, which later proved to have been the weapon used in a double homicide. Ramos was released from custody, though, when the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him, contending that it would be difficult to prove that Ramos knew his fellow gang member had a gun on his person.
The San Francisco sheriff’s department says deputies checked Ramos’s immigration status in a federal database and discovered that Ramos was an illegal alien subject to deportation. The department claims it phoned Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was told that ICE was “not placing a detainer on him.” ICE acknowledges receiving the call but says it occurred after Ramos had been set free. The discrepancy between the two versions of events remains, although ICE says it is investigating the matter.
Ramos should have been deported years earlier, however. In 2003, he and two others were arrested for assaulting a passenger on a San Francisco municipal bus. Ramos was convicted of a felony but, only 17 years old, was confined to a juvenile shelter for five months instead of jail. Four days after being released, Ramos was arrested for the attempted robbery of a pregnant woman, who was walking down Mission Street in the middle of the day. Ramos was again convicted of a felony and, still a minor, was sent to the Log Cabin Ranch, a juvenile-detention facility in the hills south of San Francisco. He was released after serving seven months.
Two arrests. Two convictions. Yet, under San Francisco’s illegal-alien sanctuary city policy, Ramos was shielded from deportation. Federal authorities only learned that Ramos was in the country illegally when he turned 18 and applied for temporary residency status. His application was rejected. Why he was not then deported is unclear. Ramos understood the game, however, and quickly married a woman who is a U.S. citizen. He then applied for status as a permanent resident alien. That request was working its way through the bureaucracy when he allegedly murdered the Bolognas.
San Francisco’s sanctuary policy dates to 1985; more recently, SFPD Chief Heather Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom have contributed mightily to the madness. In 2006, Fong released a bulletin to police officers severely limiting how and when they could communicate with ICE. In 2007, Newsom issued a directive prohibiting police or any other city employees from providing immigration information to the federal government unless specifically required by law to do so. Fong and Newsom combined to create a workplace environment that was intimidating and hostile for anyone who dared cooperate with ICE.
Investigations following the murders of the Bolognas revealed a little-known facet of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy: Since 2006 Mayor Newsom’s office has distributed nearly $700,000 in grants to private groups who provide juvenile illegal-alien criminals with various free services, including immigration attorneys and “arts and cultural affirmation activities.” The mayor’s office said the grants were intended to aid the city’s “proud tradition as a haven for immigrants.” A haven is right. From 2005 to the present, the city has spent $2.3 million to house juvenile illegal aliens.
The grants and the housing are only part of Newsom’s contribution to San Francisco’s sanctuary policy. Since 2006 the mayor has had juvenile probation officers fly criminal illegal alien youths back to their homelands—principally Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—instead of allowing ICE to take them into custody. If these criminal aliens were formally deported by the federal government, they would be prohibited from ever reentering the United States—a tragedy for everyone except American citizens. In May of this year federal agents intercepted a San Francisco probation officer and his juvenile offenders as they were changing planes in Houston on their way to Central America. Stung by the revelation, Mayor Newsom announced that he has terminated the program. The flights had cost San Francisco $39,000.
With the flight program ended, the city tried a new tack. Thirteen juvenile illegal-alien drug dealers were shipped to group homes for probationers in San Bernardino County, hundreds of miles south of San Francisco. Twelve of the 13 criminals walked away from the unguarded homes almost immediately, and only two have been captured. “The county is exploring every option to recoup all our police expenses,” said San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt. “This lunacy needs to stop now.” Feeling the heat, Newsom announced that he would end the relocation program.
Liberal San Franciscans, once smugly proud of the city’s unlawful failure to cooperate with federal authorities, have been uncharacteristically quiet of late. Perhaps the poignant sight of Tony Bologna’s widow, Danielle, crying in anguish during radio and television interviews has caused some of them to understand the consequences of their city’s protection of illegal aliens. Gavin Newsom, the mayor who gave us same-sex marriage, divorced his first wife, had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife, and dated a teenager, seems unperturbed by all the fuss. He plans to run for governor of California in 2010.
Another California mayor with gubernatorial ambitions is Anthony Villaraigosa. His Los Angeles is also a sanctuary city, and the consequences here have been just as tragic. In early March, Jamiel Shaw, a football player at Los Angeles High, was walking home from school. He almost made it. When he was only three houses shy, a car pulled alongside him, and gunfire filled the air. Shaw collapsed to the ground, dead. Police later arrested Pedro Espinosa, a 19-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, and charged him with murder.
Espinosa was known to local police and the criminal-justice system. He was a member of the Hispanic 18th Street gang and had served time in both the California Youth Authority and in the Los Angeles County Jail. He was released from jail only the day before he allegedly shot Shaw. His illegal-alien status was never reported to ICE. His case is not unique. ICE estimates that 40,000 of the 170,000 inmates in Los Angeles jails each year are illegal aliens. Contributing to the problem is the LAPD’s notorious Special Order 40, which prohibits police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of those they arrest or those they have contact with on the streets.
Mayor Villaraigosa is proud of the city’s sanctuary policy. He says that he represents California’s future. I’m afraid he’s right; as Tony Villar, Mayor Villaraigosa grew up on the predominantly Latino east side. His mother had been born here, but his father was an illegal alien from Mexico. After attending East Los Angeles Junior College, Villar transferred to UCLA in 1972 through affirmative action. He spent three years at UCLA but failed to graduate. He did rise, however, to the leadership of the campus chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, known commonly as MEChA. MEChA advocates the reconquest of the American Southwest, which it calls Aztlán, from “the foreigner ‘gabacho’ who exploits our riches and destroys our culture. . . . We declare the independence of our mestizo nation. We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlán.”
Villar’s principal target at UCLA was the Chicano Studies Center. One of MEChA’s protests at the center resulted in thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Villar deemed the center’s director, Rudolfo Alvarez, as far too moderate because he refused to support “the liberation of Aztlán.” Protests and demonstrations eventually led Alvarez to resign.
The media has been conspicuously silent about Villar’s leadership role in an organization whose motto is “Por La Raza todo; Fuera de La Raza nada” (“For the Race everything; Outside the Race nothing”). Can anyone imagine the media allowing a white mayor’s membership in, say, the American Nazi Party to go unnoticed? The excuse of youthful indiscretion cannot be used. When Mayor Villaraigosa was asked during an interview on The John and Ken Show on KFI-AM 640 radio if he still supported MEChA’s mission and goals, he refused to answer.
Several years after his days leading MEChA at UCLA, Villar returned to campus and completed the classes he still needed for an undergraduate degree. He then enrolled at the unaccredited People’s College of Law. He graduated but failed in four attempts to pass the bar exam. Unable to practice law, he became a “union organizer.” In 1994, he was elected from a Latino district to the California State Assembly and, aided by the Hispanic Caucus, became speaker in 1998. He left the legislature and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2001. He then won a seat on the city council and again ran for mayor in 2005. His mayoral victory made him the first person of Mexican descent to hold the office since 1872. He will not be the last. Los Angeles is now more than 50-percent Latino. Non-Hispanic whites make up less than 30 percent of the city’s population. White children are only eight percent of the school population.
I have heard many white politicians in California, nearly all Republicans, claiming that “conservative social values” and “family values” are held dear by Latinos. Villar’s lack of both has not hurt him. Before he married Corina Raigosa in 1987, he fathered two children out of wedlock by two different women. While married to Raigosa he had an affair with a friend’s wife (the mother of their godchild) and with a reporter for a Spanish-language television station. He and his wife are now divorced. He also plans to run for governor in 2010.
With Gavin Newsom running San Francisco and Antonio Villaraigosa running Los Angeles, and both eager to run the state, there seems little hope for California. However, California is on the verge of a financial collapse, and out of that may come some changes—purely out of necessity—for the better. As I write this, the state is in its 69th day without a budget. Projections for fiscal year 2008-09 indicate a budget deficit of $15-17 billion. Republican legislators, a minority, are refusing to approve any new form of taxation or any increase in existing taxes. Democrats, not willing to make any significant cuts in spending, have proposed both new taxes and increasing existing taxes.
California does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. In fiscal year 2003-04, before Arnold Schwarzenegger came into office to rescue us, California spent $75 billion. In 2007-08, after four years under a self-described fiscal conservative, we spent $107 billion. State revenues increased every year—23 percent over four years—principally from property taxes, which increased concomitantly with the fantastic appreciation in real estate. Rather than reduce state debt or save for bad economic times, the state legislature went on a spending spree. Governor Schwarzenegger went along for the ride, displaying none of his vaunted business sense and evidently having no stomach for a fight. Total state indebtedness now exceeds $60 billion, real money even for Everett Dirksen.
According to the Tax Foundation, the tax burden for California residents is the sixth highest in the country. Moreover, in the most important areas of taxation, income and sales tax, California ranks first. For property tax, California is ranked 20th based on collections per household or 45th based on a percentage of home value. If it were not for Proposition 13, passed by the initiative process in 1978, California would undoubtedly rank first in property tax also.
Sacramento’s voracious appetite for revenue was satisfied during the last few years by the appreciation in real estate and by a special bond measure that Schwarzenegger convinced the voters to approve in 2004. The sale of bonds put $15 billion into the California coffers, but the last of that money has been spent, and taxpayers have to come up with $1.5 billion annually to service the debt for years to come. Sacramento also pays more than five billion dollars per year to service other debt, for a total of nearly seven billion dollars.
While the costs of any particular project, salary, or pension plan to the state can be debated, it would seem that the estimated $12 billion that California spends each year on illegal aliens—for schools, welfare, medical care, and crime—would inspire immediate action. Although the deportation of those here illegally would eliminate most of the budget deficit, no Democratic legislator and only a few Republicans have publicly called for doing so.
Many counties, especially those with large illegal-alien populations, are also facing budget crises. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, about the only public official in Los Angeles with any guts, had his office analyze the cost of illegal aliens to the county: medical care, $400 million; criminal justice, $250 million; and welfare (CALWORKS and food stamps), $420 million, for a total of more than $1 billion. This staggering sum does not include the largest cost of all—education, which probably runs another five billion dollars per year, if both illegal-alien students and students born here but to illegal-alien parents are included.
With California’s economic growth slowing and property values declining, the costs for illegal aliens simply cannot be sustained without new taxes or significant increases in old taxes. As it is, thousands of businesses have relocated to other states, and tens of thousands of long-time California residents are now living outside the once Golden State. In the days of Democratic Gov. Pat Brown and Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan, California consumed one-third less in taxes as a proportion of personal incomes than the state does today. Yet, water projects, freeways, and universities were built and expanded and debts were easily serviced. The budget was balanced. Homes were affordable, schools were good, and illegal aliens few. The population was 85-percent white. Immigrants came from Europe and were assimilated almost immediately. No one conceived of the day when we would have to “Press one for English.”
California was once a paradise. We who were born and reared here never considered the possibility that we would lose our paradise or that whites would become a minority—just like those living in other states never thought the illegal-immigrant invasion was anything more than a California phenomenon. Be warned. There is nothing stopping your state—other than a courageous and aroused citizenry—from suffering the same fate.