On our refrigerator door, we have posted photos and stories of Marines who have lost their lives in the Iraq war.  Among them are Cpl. Jason Dunham and Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin.  Dunham was 22 when he dived onto a grenade to protect his buddies in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.  A top high-school athlete from Scio, New York, he wanted to become a state trooper one day.  In the Corps, he became a machine gunner and was leading a squad manning a checkpoint near Husaybah when an Iraqi leaped from a car with a grenade in his hand.  Dunham wrestled him to the ground, warned off other Marines, and smothered the grenade with his body.  Grievously wounded, Dunham was airlifted to Bethesda Naval Hospital.  He hung on for a week before dying, his mother and father at his side, each holding a hand of their son.  For his sacrifice, he became the first American recommended for the Medal of Honor in the Iraq war.

Reared in Texas and New Mexico, 21-year-old Aaron Austin was also a machine gunner.  He arrived in Iraq with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, for his second tour of duty.  As fate would have it, 2/1 was chosen to lead the assault on Fallujah.  Austin and his machine-gun crew supported squads of riflemen fighting their way, building by building, through the insurgent stronghold.  Just when the action seemed to subside for a time and he had his gun positioned on a building top, insurgent Iraqis launched a fierce counterattack.  Hit by machine-gun and rifle fire and exploding grenades, several Marines in his crew were wounded.  Austin and another Marine carried the wounded to vehicles below, and then Austin shouted, “We’ve got to get back on the roof and get on that gun.”  Through a hail of bullets, Austin ran and crawled until he was back, firing his machine gun into the enemy.  Badly wounded and bleeding, he kept firing, and the attack began to falter.  With his last bit of strength, he straightened up and hurled a grenade into the midst of the attackers.  Several fell, others scattered, and the attack was halted.  Austin collapsed, mortally wounded.  He has been recommended for the Navy Cross.

Jason Dunham and Aaron Austin are only two of the more than 1,500 Americans who have died in Iraq.  More than 10,000 have been wounded.  Most of those killed have been PFC’s, lance corporals, and corporals.  Few are older than 22 or 23.  Many in their photos, including Dunham and Austin, look 17.  It breaks your heart.  They are boys with hearts of lions.  They have upheld the finest traditions of the American military.  I fear, however, that their courage and sacrifice has been misused in some kind of grand Machiavellian scheme that has little to do with protecting America.

If the consequences were not so serious, I would laugh when I hear President George W. Bush talk about the need to establish secure borders in Iraq.  Is this the same President who allows more than a million illegal immigrants to invade the United States each year?  Doesn’t it seem reasonable to secure our own borders here at home before we worry about some Islamic hellhole in the Middle East?  The gap between statements issued in Washington and reality has become so wide—the casus belli, I do recall, was an imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction—that Monty Python could hardly make a movie that had more bizarre twists and turns and more characters ripe for hyperbolic parody.  Saddam Hussein, the monster of the Middle East, the Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo of the 21st Century, came out of a hole in the ground looking like a drug-addled, bearded, long-haired, malnourished survivor of Grateful Dead concerts.  Three-hundred-billion dollars and 12,000 casualties for this piece of Arab flotsam?

Meanwhile, the debate continues over the number of “boots on the ground,” while President Bush has said nothing about “boots on the border.”  Primarily Mexicans, but also Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and others, pour across our southern border as if it did not exist, taxing the infrastructure of California, in particular, to the breaking point.  Nonetheless, the relatively unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nation the way bombs and bullets do and is, as a consequence, all the more insidious.  In California, our schools are overwhelmed by the influx of Spanish-speaking children.  Reeling from the costs of treating illegal aliens and delivering their babies, emergency rooms and hospitals are closing at an alarming rate.  Nearly one third of all crime in the state is now the product of illegal aliens.  This is not an innocuous, let alone beneficial, flow of economic refugees.  This is an invasion.  California is not only turning brown, it is turning red—as in bankrupt.  The cost to the state each year for services to illegal aliens is conservatively estimated at five billion dollars.  It may very well be double that.

Individual counties, too, are enduring enormous costs from illegal aliens.  On a typical day, nearly 5,000 of the 17,000 inmates in Los Angeles County jails are illegal aliens, mostly Mexican nationals.  Last year, it cost L.A. County taxpayers $150 million to jail illegal-alien criminals.  “There is a very high rate of recidivism among them,” said Chuck Jackson, chief of the Correctional Services Division.  Recidivism?  Unbelievable as it may sound, they were not deported when released from jail because, until recently, there has been almost no cooperation between county jails and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Late in January, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted three to two to have ICE train special personnel to interview suspected illegal aliens and determine if they should be transferred to federal custody for possible deportation after serving their jail sentences.  Interviews with suspected illegal aliens will only be allowed, however, after the illegal aliens have been convicted.  “What I don’t want to see is somebody getting deported after having been acquitted of a crime,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.  It would be a damn shame to deport someone for having done nothing more than ignore our national sovereignty, crash our border, and reside illegally in our country. 

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  It looks as if Mexico, especially, has given us not only her tired and poor, huddled in vans and trucks and definitely yearning to breathe, but also her criminal.  California’s prison population of illegal aliens has soared since the 1980’s.  The prison system now holds nearly 30,000 foreign born, most of them illegal and most of them from Mexico.  It costs California taxpayers $31,000 a year to house each prisoner.  Total costs come to about $900 million.  Last year, the federal government allocated $300 million to reimburse states that incarcerate foreign nationals.  California received $109 million, leaving the Golden State some $800 million short.  With California billions in the red, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has argued that Washington should cover the full costs since immigration is a federal responsibility.

Last December, a special conference was convened in Los Angeles on the problem of foreign nationals in California prisons.  The principal concern was establishing a regular country-to-country transfer of prisoners.  Such a program would primarily involve transferring Mexicans from California to Mexico.  Diplomats from the consulates of Canada, Germany, and Sweden said they would participate, but no one from the Mexican consulate responded to a formal invitation and numerous phone calls from the California legislator who organized the event.  The Mexican government finally said that “budgetary concerns” prevented it from flying “an appropriate consulate official” from Mexico.  The California representative said any official from the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles would do.  No deal.  At least the Swedes were there.  Any casual observer can see that our prisons are overflowing with big blond guys from Goteborg.

When faced with serious charges, criminal Mexican illegal aliens often save the state of California money by fleeing south of the border.  There, they live with impunity, because Mexico will not extradite a Mexican facing a possible life sentence or the death penalty.  Thousands of such fugitives are currently in Mexico.  Some 350 of them are wanted for murders committed in Los Angeles County alone.  David March was a 33-year-old, married, 6’5″ Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who loved his job.  On April 29, 2002, in a routine traffic stop, he pulled over a car driven by Armando “Chato” Garcia.  Unknown to March, Garcia was a Mexican drug dealer who already had been deported three times—in 1992, 1994, and 2001.  March was also unaware that Garcia was wanted by the Baldwin Park police for two counts of attempted murder and by the El Monte police on a weapons charge.  Garcia greeted March with a blazing 9mm semiautomatic.  March collapsed to the pavement, mortally wounded.  Garcia lives openly in Mexico today.  March’s widow has done everything in her power during the last two years to see justice done.  Without President Bush’s cooperation, however, nothing can be accomplished.

Mexico occasionally tries the fugitives if they have murdered other Mexican nationals.  Illegal alien Juan Manuel Casillas was living in Van Nuys, a formerly white middle-class bedroom community in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  In 1999, Casillas fatally shot his former girlfriend, 17-year-old Olivia Munguia, and her cousin, 15-year-old Jessica Zavala, as the teenagers walked to school.  Within a day, Casillas was across the border and safely ensconced in Mexico.  For two years, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office worked for his extradition, even offering not to seek the death penalty for the dual murder, but to no avail.  Outraged, Saul Zavala, the father of Jessica and uncle of Olivia, armed himself and headed for Mexico.  Not only was there word that Casillas was living in his home state of Jalisco, but Olivia’s parents both lived in Mexico.  It seems that Olivia had come north with her uncle and his family.

Saul Zavala never caught up with Casillas, but the Mexican authorities finally took Casillas into custody and tried him for the murders.  At least, they say they did.  Zavala doubts that a trial ever took place because no one concerned, including witnesses, was ever notified.  Casillas supposedly was convicted and sentenced to 60 years.  Taken at face value, it would seem that a degree of justice had been meted out.  It is an open secret, however, that, in Mexico, with pesos properly distributed, sentences can be reduced dramatically.  Casillas will likely serve something under ten years.  Then, he will probably be back.  Under our current laws and treaties, since Casillas was tried and convicted in Mexico, he cannot be tried again in California.

Large sections of the San Fernando Valley are now off limits to peaceful, law-abiding citizens.  LAPD cops used to get assigned to one of the department’s Valley divisions during their last few years as a kind of retirement on the job.  The Devonshire division was known as Sleepy Hollow because the officers assigned to the graveyard shift, which saw the most action in central Los Angeles, spent the night snoozing in their patrol cars.  Not so today.  Murder and other serious crimes are commonplace.  Most of those committing the felonious crimes are illegal aliens or the children of illegals.  Again, the suspects take an escape route south to Mexico.  The Valley’s top ten most-wanted list of alleged murderers includes Gustavo Araiza, Oswaldo Barillas, Arcadio Valverde Cardenas, Milburgo Zagal Flores, Steve Garcia, Jacob Gomez, Alvaro Beltrani Merino, and Jesus Jose Vazquez.  Eight of ten suggests something more than anecdotal coincidence.  Nine of the ten most-wanted fugitive murderers in central Los Angeles also carry Spanish surnames and have first names such as Fausto, Pedro, Cesar, and Demecio.

These cases are not anomalies.  More than 90 percent of outstanding warrants for murder in Los Angeles County are for fugitive illegal aliens.  With a few Armenian exceptions, nearly all of them have Spanish surnames and are thought to have fled to Mexico.  This is no longer a problem peculiar to Los Angeles County or to California.  Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley estimates that up to 3,000 murder suspects nationally have slipped into Mexico.  Although done by the ones and twos, the number of murderers they have committed surpasses the number of those who died when Arab terrorists crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center.

Mexican gangs control entire neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and “taggers” have left every paintable surface in those areas sprayed with gang symbols and names.  Like dogs marking their yards, taggers spray paint their territory.  The tagging has gotten so bad in the San Fernando Valley, once upon a time—with a few exceptional pockets at its east end—a virtually lily-white and crime-free region, that, in mid January, a task force of 150 law-enforcement personnel conducted a pre-dawn sweep of 70 homes of suspected taggers.  The probation officers, sheriff’s deputies, and LAPD cops seized not only stockpiles of spray-paint cans but large amounts of marijuana, methamphetamines, and other narcotics, and 15 guns.  Thirty-two people were arrested.

The gangs do more than spray paint and smoke dope: They murder.  During the last four years, 3,100 murders in Los Angeles County have been attributed to gangs.  A dozen years ago, the majority of these would have been committed by members of black gangs, such as the Bloods and Crips.  Not so today.  Latino gangs, many composed mainly of illegal aliens, now commit the majority of murders and outnumber black gangs 209 to 152.  They have more than double the number of members of black gangs.  The 18th Street gang, with as many as 20,000 members, may be the bloodiest criminal organization in Southern California.  Police estimate that nearly two thirds of its members are from south of the border.  Although far smaller, the Lil’ Cycos gang has a similar composition and proportionately commits as many murders.  Mara Salva Trucha, a Salvadoran gang, has thousands of members and a bloody reputation as well.

Since so many of the Latino gangs are made up of illegal aliens, it would seem that checking gang members for their immigration status would be a rather easy way to fracture their criminal organizations.  But that is not allowed in Los Angeles.  Pressure from the Los Angeles city council and immigration activists and organizations caused the LAPD to enact Special Order 40 in 1979, which prohibits officers from “initiating police action where the objective is to discover the alien status of a person.”  Only after a suspect commits a criminal act and is arrested by the police can they investigate his immigration status.  This means the police pull criminal illegal aliens off the street by ones and twos instead of by the hundreds.  The relatively small numbers they actually take off the streets are quickly replaced by new recruits fresh from Mexico or Central America.

The supply is endless.  Mexico has 105 million people, and 42 million of them live below the poverty line.  Guatemala has 14.3 million people, and 11 million of them live below the poverty line.  El Salvador has 6.6 million people, and 3.2 million of them live under the poverty line.  That is more than 56 million people living below the poverty line in countries immediately to our south, countries that are rife with crime and corruption, countries that encourage the illegal exportation of their poverty-stricken and criminal citizens to the United States.

While Mexico does not extradite Mexicans who have committed capital crimes in the United States back to California or any other state, she does encourage illegal immigration to the hated nation of gringos to the north.  During January, the Mexican government began distributing more than a million copies of Guia Del Migrante Mexicano, a guidebook for illegal entry into the United States.  The 32-page illustrated booklet describes, among other things, the best routes for travel, what to do when lost, how to ford streams, types of clothing to wear, quantities of water needed, food to pack, rights if arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol, and the operations of smugglers—the so-called coyotes.  The guidebook is also available online for internet-savvy Mexicans and can be picked up at Mexican consulates in the United States.

If the booklet were not enough to insult our sovereignty, in January, Mexican congressman Javier Guizar Macias announced that he would open another field office—not in his district in Mexico but in East Los Angeles.  “This is a link to our Congress,” he said.  “The office will be a point of contact.”  The establishment of the office has stirred some controversy, although not a word has been heard from the U.S. government.  Those questioning the opening of the office are Mexican rivals of Macias who say he is doing it to capture the vote of Mexican nationals living in Los Angeles.

An invasion from south of the border has been underway since the 1970’s.  Those might be vans and trucks carrying the invaders instead of tanks and APC’s, but it is an invasion nonetheless.  Americans are being rapidly dislodged and replaced; the social fabric, rent; the tax base, destroyed; institutions, corrupted; and our sovereignty, compromised.  All the while, El Presidente Jorge Bush does nothing—except proffer amnesty to those who invade our country and send our boys to die on distant shores.