Immigrant Gangs: Pols still don’t get it

By Jon Feere and Jon Feere on January 5, 2009

In their quest for open borders, many politicians still fail to understand the link between immigration and the growth of gangs.

The latest example is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) – who happens to have one of the worst records on immigration enforcement. In the next Congress, Baca plans to introduce an initiative to fight gangs. It sounds like a great idea, but if his past efforts are a guide, it’s likely that this initiative will focus only on prevention programs akin to the anti-drug program known as D.A.R.E.

The problem with this effort is that it in no way addresses the continuous flow of illegal alien gangsters over our borders. Congress could dramatically reduce the growth of gangs simply through better enforcement of immigration law, as illustrated in a recent Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder I co-authored with the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jessica Vaughan titled, “Taking Back the Streets.” Baca doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge this reality.

But not only is Baca failing to be pro-active in reducing gangs through immigration enforcement, he’s actually making things worse by advocating policies that would benefit gang members: an end to workplace enforcement measures and a massive illegal alien amnesty.

Baca is asking President-elect Obama to stop workplace enforcement via executive order upon taking office. What the congressman fails to realize that many illegal alien gang members rarely make a living as gangsters; many work regular jobs in restaurants, construction, and landscaping, for example. It’s after dusk when they hone their machete-wielding skills. Arresting these individuals at work rather than at a crime scene is clearly ideal.

Baca explains that ending workplace enforcement would “reduce the fear of deportation.” But such a change would only embolden illegal alien gang members, individuals who should fear deportation.

Baca is also chomping at the bit for another amnesty debate. He says “our nation needs it” and that it “doesn't take away from enforcement.” He couldn’t be more wrong. Any “pathway to citizenship” would be a huge benefit to gangs as it would cement their presence in the country and make the job of law enforcement much more difficult. The option of deportation – perhaps the most effective law enforcement tool in fighting the growth of violent gangs – would be eliminated. Even more ludicrous is the fact that the last big amnesty proposal actually included a provision aimed directly at benefiting illegal alien gang members; they simply had to sign a “renunciation of gang affiliation.” Likely, Baca’s desire to welcome more illegal alien gang members into our neighborhoods has not changed and we’d see similar provisions in future amnesty proposals.

If we are serious about reducing gang crime, we must improve immigration enforcement efforts. Increased gang activity is a direct consequence of lax enforcement of immigration law.