By Randy Alcorn
Santa Barbara, California is considered by many people to be one of the half dozen best places on earth in which to live. Lending support to this lofty claim is that thousands of people who have the means to live anywhere in the world choose to live in Santa Barbara. Yet, despite its affluence, sophistication, and beauty, Santa Barbara has not escaped a deadly gang problem that has recently erupted in bloody violence in broad daylight on the city’s main downtown intersection.
Gang violence, including two recent lethal stabbings of teenagers, is becoming increasingly common and alarmingly audacious in this upscale seaside resort town. One knife fight among rival gangs took place in a local fast food restaurant on Santa Barbara’s main street at 2:30 in the afternoon. All the participants in this open gang violence are Hispanic youths of which a number are illegal aliens from Mexico. Contemporaneous with these events, Santa Barbara County police discovered two of the largest marijuana farms in the county’s history. At one of these farms police arrested Mexican nationals—illegal aliens—who are suspected of planting and maintaining the marijuana crop.
The incidence of gang activity and illegal drug cultivation has steadily increased throughout California and threatens the safety of citizens who can be, and have been, caught in the crossfire of warring gangs, or imperiled by the armed sentries guarding the illicit marijuana farms.
In his book, The Mexican Mafia, author Tony Rafael reveals the disturbing findings of his ten years of field research into California’s Mexican street gangs. These gangs are organized in a relatively flat hierarchal system that assigns territories and establishes percentages of the take from various criminal activities, the most lucrative of which is the illegal drug trade. Discipline and loyalty are quickly and harshly enforced. Typically, death is the penalty for second offenses against the gang.
Although Hispanic street gangs have been around since the 1930s, and the current Mexican Mafia, called Eme, has existed since 1957, their presence went mostly unnoticed because their numbers were relatively small and their criminal activities were confined to certain lower socio-economic, neighborhoods. But, with the massive invasion of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. over the past three decades, the gangs have flourished.
The high school drop out rate among Hispanic students is very high. In the Los Angeles School District this drop out rate is around 50%. The young Hispanic dropouts are essentially illiterate and unemployable for anything but the most menial jobs. They continue to provide an ample pool of new recruits for the street gangs.
Fed by the continual flood of illegal immigrants from Mexico, street gangs have expanded their crime empire by awarding and sponsoring gang franchises in communities throughout California. Santa Barbara is likely one of the latest communities to suffer the establishment of a gang franchise. And, as the number of illegal Mexican immigrants continues to increase across America, not only will California and the southwest suffer gang activity, so too will communities across the nation.
The frustrating irony in the growth of violent Mexican street gangs is that it is unwittingly financed by the War on Drugs. The Federal government expends billions of dollars each year in a futile effort to eradicate drug trafficking. The huge expenditure of law enforcement resources and tax dollars focused on eradicating commodities for which there is persistent and widespread demand has created a hugely lucrative black market from which criminal gangs build tremendous treasuries. Exacerbating the gang problem is that at least half a million new illegal aliens invade the U.S. each year.
If the federal government pursued enforcement of immigration laws with the same zeal and resources it devotes to the War on Drugs, Mexican street gangs would have fewer recruits. If the futile War on Drugs were ended and most drugs decriminalized, the street gangs would lose their greatest source of revenue. Additionally, the Mexican drug cartels that currently control many towns on the Mexican side of the border, and that have sent squadrons of drug dealers into the U.S. to cultivate hidden marijuana farms would suffer an abrupt loss of market.
The American public, especially the taxpayers, are the big losers in both the War on Drugs and from the invasion of illegal aliens. The majority of inmates in America’s overcrowded prisons were convicted of drug related offenses, many of them for simple possession of marijuana. On average, it costs taxpayers about $25,000 each year to incarcerate each inmate. Of the 2 million inmates in America’s prisons, 650,000 are foreign born, of whom half could be deported under federal law but won’t be because our Federal government lacks the resources and the motivation to do so. While this same government spends about $11 billion a year pursuing the War on Drugs—assiduously storming medical marijuana clinics and prosecuting victimless crime—millions of illegal aliens stream into the country.
Meanwhile, America is spending tens of billions of dollars per year attempting to educate the children of immigrants, and billions more on social services for these immigrants. Los Angeles alone has been spending $82 million per year on gang intervention programs, none of which have proven successful in diverting any kids from gangs. The State of California is currently spending close to $20 billion per year on education for children of immigrants.
Anyone who believes that the American economy benefits from the huge influx of immigrant labor is not looking past the price of a head of lettuce to see what that influx is really costing. Illegal immigrant labor is no bargain when all the costs of illegal immigration are taken into account. In Santa Barbara, California where tourism is that community’s biggest business, lethal gang combat in broad daylight in the heart of town can’t be good for business.
The federal government’s careless non-enforcement of immigration laws and its fanatically vigorous enforcement of anti-drug laws is a confluence of bad policy that is flooding America with costly, perilous problems. Illegal immigration is just that, illegal. It is crime on a large scale that America has for too long tolerated. It is spawning increasing violence and insidious crime—all coming soon to a neighborhood near you.