For most of the 25 years that I taught in the Lodi Unified School District, I had classes in nearby Stockton. My English as a Second Language courses were, as you might expect, full of immigrants from dozens of countries: Mexico, the Central American nations, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, China, India, Pakistan and a host of European countries.
Legal and illegal immigration overwhelmed Stockton. As of the 2010 Census, Stockton is 40 percent Hispanic and 22 percent Asian, mostly from Southeastern Asia. Immigration fueled Stockton’s population growth, an unsustainable 20 percent in the last decade. As a result, the city had to hire more police and firemen as well as provide an abundance of social services to its new arrivals, most of them poor, some destitute. Eventually, the need for additional law enforcement, fire protection and welfare outstripped Stockton’s ability to pay for it.
Then, the final blow came. When the housing boom began, many Stockton residents although virtually penniless, qualified for mortgages they had no chance of repaying. Stockton soon became known as “Foreclosureville, USA.” Forbes Magazine rated Stockton as the nation’s “most miserable city” to live in. In addition to the reasons I listed above, Forbes columnist Al Lewis noted that Stockton is among the least literate, most dangerous and most obese cities in America. [More Misery for America’s Most Miserable City, by Al Lewis, Forbes Magazine, March 2, 2012]
I can attest to the violence. At the school site, parking lot vandalism, neighborhood home invasions and classroom lockdown precipitated by drive by shootings were considered part of the daily routine. Today, Stockton is insolvent and on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. [Stockton Council Weighs Plan to Forestall City’s Insolvency, by Diana Markum, Los Angeles Times, February 29, 2012]
Lewis summarized what led Stockton to this crisis:
“An overly optimistic and undereducated people, electing ignorant and misinformed leaders, piling up debt, until the one day when they can't.”
I won’t argue. But there’s a greater reason that came before the other problems. Too many people, most of them immigrants from distant countries who had no capacity to assimilate and, worse, didn’t know that the bountiful free services they received were not, in fact, free. Taxpayers funded them until, as Lewis pointed out, they couldn’t any more.