La Ganga Madre

Published on April 2nd, 2008

La Ganga Madre
One woman plus thirteen kids equals deadly chaos
By Mark Cromer

If the total dysfunction of America’s immigration system has a name, that name is Maria ‘Chata’ Leon.

A 44-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who until recently lived in Los Angeles, Leon apparently made landfall in the United States in 1985 and in short order began to have children in spite of her poverty.

Twenty three years later and the highlights of Leon’s story flows with all the cadence of a rap sheet, quite literally: She’s the mother of at least 13 children fathered by five different men, a maternal feat accomplished despite being arrested at least 14 times so far, including multiple felony busts.

As a dope hustler on the street of a once quiet neighborhood nestled in the shadow of Dodger Stadium, Leon made rank as a gang mom as her brood took up the family trade. One son was sent to prison for narcotics sales. Another was busted as an immigrant smuggler.

Yet another of Leon’s sons was killed by LAPD last month after a wild gun battle in the neighborhood that left another man dead. The police said Leon’s son jumped from a car firing an AK-47 assault rifle at them when they returned fire.

News reports that followed the carnage brought Leon’s story to light; and in the process offered a stark portrayal of how cynically our nation’s immigration laws are manipulated to devastating effect on our cities streets.

Leon was part of a stream of illegal immigrants who poured into Los Angeles from the town of Tlalchapa in the Mexican coastal state of Guerrero. Many of the impoverished migrants were fleeing what they described as a violent, corruption-riddled homeland.

And yet as Leon’s story illustrates, far from escaping the bloody chaos of Mexico, they brought it with them.

Over the past few weeks, news reports have detailed how refugees from Tlalchapa have settled into the ‘Drew Street’ neighborhood dating back over four decades. As the population density surged, apartment buildings rose in place of demolished single family homes and the quality of life in the neighborhood spiraled downward.

By the early 1990s, according to one former resident quoted in a news story, the neighborhood was governed by “the law of the revolver.”

As tranquility on the neighborhood’s streets evaporated with the collapse of the rule of law, to illegal immigrants like Leon it must have seemed just like old times back home: No job, no discernable structure of a lawful authority on the street and a carefree reproductive regimen that jibed with a culture of day-to-day subsistence living.

Before too long, Leon was peddling dope and getting arrested.

Yet thanks in part to ‘Special Order 40’ in Los Angeles, the fact that a blossoming career criminal like Leon was in the country illegally did not result in her immediate deportation on numerous occasions when she found herself in jail.

In 1992 alone Leon was arrested twice for selling drugs, including PCP, but for whatever reason was not charged by the District Attorney, according to news reports. Instead of getting on a bus for the ride back to the border, Leon got a ride home to her Drew Street neighborhood, where business was booming.

It wasn’t until a decade later, when police raided Leon’s home and found cocaine, assault weapons, explosives—and six children under the age of 10—that Leon finally faced a lengthy prison sentence and federal immigration officials.

And guess what happened? Nothing.

Sentenced to more than six years in prison, Leon apparently was given credit for just 259 days served and then, according to news reports, she was finally handed over to immigration officials for deportation.

Whether she was shipped back to Mexico is unknown, since Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have refused to comment on Leon’s case.

What is crystal clear is that if Leon was ever deported, she’s back—and currently living in a two-story home in the Southern California desert town of Victorville.

While police say she and her family of gang members are still players in the drug trade; and while reporters from local newspapers had little problem contacting Leon trying to get interviews, Uncle Sam seems a little confused as to what to do about her.

Despite her son’s fatal confrontation with police and the news stories that have followed, there apparently has been no hurry—let alone shame—from ICE to move aggressively to find and deport her.

So she’s back in the states and back in business.

Those who support open borders and continued mass immigration describe criminal immigrants like Leon as but a fraction of the swelling numbers of the “good, hardworking” people who come to America to better their lives and benefit our nation.

The reality is that while Leon is indeed not representative of most immigrants, legal and illegal alike, she is by no means an anomaly either.

There are hundreds of thousands of Leons all over the nation today, wrecking violent havoc on the communities they call home and costing taxpayers a fortune in medical care (it’s a good guess that all of Leon’s 13 kids were delivered on the taxpayer’s dime) and incarceration costs.

Given the incompetence of immigration officials and the reluctance of local, state and federal leaders to move decisively to secure the borders and ruthlessly prosecute and deport illegal aliens like Leon—it’s no wonder she and her ilk are drawn here.

It is now indeed just like home.

Mark Cromer is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), www.capsweb.org.

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