"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Getting a Head Start on Amnesty

The more things change, the more they stay the same... Right, exactly. There is no permanent that a guest-worker program and the hopes of thousands now rushing toward the border and the millions here already.

(Graphic via Michelle Malkin; article via Captain's Quarters)

'We want to try our luck.

One of them is Ramirez, a 30-year-old who earned about $80 a week at a rebar factory in Mexico’s central state of Michoacan.
He spent an entire night walking through the Arizona desert with his wife, Edith Mondragon, 29. When her legs cramped, their guide abandoned them and the couple turned themselves in to U.S. authorities. They were deported.

But they said they would try again when they regained their strength.

“We want to try our luck up there,” Mondragon said. “We can’t go back to Michoacan because there is no future there.”
Ramirez said the draw was not only the prospect of work in Minnesota, where two of his brothers milk cows on a ranch. He was also excited about the idea he might be able to do it legally.

Many of the migrants also are being driven by a desire to get into the United States before the likelihood that lawmakers further fortify the border.

How will they "further their luck" is the question:

Ten of thousands of gang members were re-patriated to Central America where they are wreaking havoc. They have links to an estimated 8,000-10,000 members in more than 30 U.S. states, posing a transnational threat that sets them apart from other street gangs.

At the hub of the crisis are El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Societies brutalized by decades of civil war and poverty, they are now home to the greatest concentration of ''mareros," or gang members and among the highest murder rates in the world -- as much as 10 times higher than in the United States.

This year, all three countries have turned to soldiers to reinforce antigang operations, raising fears about a reliance on militaries guilty of wartime human rights atrocities. Early this month, a re-commissioned battalion of soldiers in olive-drab uniforms began patrolling the streets of Guatemala City.

By most accounts, maras, whose moniker refers to a deadly species of ant, were spawned in Los Angeles. Mara 18 began as the 18th Street Gang in the 1960s, which accepted Hispanic immigrants excluded from Mexican gangs. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was founded by Central Americans who fled wars at home in the 1980s, and landed in US ghettos without work or protection from existing gangs.

In recent years, the two major gangs have become far more vicious and sophisticated, forming alliances with organized crime in prison and shuttling operatives between the United States and their home countries. Their trademark beheadings, mutilations, and torture-killings of rival gangsters, informants, and other victims have made them a top priority of the FBI's criminal enterprise branch.

In Central America, governments have experimented with get-tough laws, only to see crime worsen every year. Violence and extortion -- from petty ''taxes" levied on bus drivers and corner shopkeepers to tens of thousands of dollars demanded of a major soda company in El Salvador -- have scared off investors, shaving regional gross domestic product by some 25 percent, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

Although other criminals surely have a hand in rising violence, gangs have become the gnawing preoccupation of the public and politicians here. Police and judicial systems are ill-equipped to fight criminal networks, prisons are overcrowded, and social service budgets are too small to offer attractive alternatives to idle youth.

Salvadoran President Tony Saca was voted into power in 2004 on a law-and-order platform promoting ''mano super dura" (or ''ultra-hard hand") antigang tactics, including arresting youth for sporting tattoos or gang-style clothing (a measure since ruled unconstitutional). More than 16,000 suspects have been arrested since the summer of 2004; one in four of those ended up in jail, officials say.

But gangsters have adapted, said Oscar Bonilla, president of Salvador's National Council on Security. ''They have reduced their tattooing, changed their style of dress, and had fewer open confrontations with other gangs," while maintaining criminal activity.

A US official working on regional antigang programs who spoke on condition of anonymity called mano dura policies ''ineffective," saying they had a ''cucharacha effect" of making gangsters scatter like cockroaches, and come out when authorities aren't looking.

Hard-line arrest policies ''have overloaded the judicial system. . .and created a revolving door," the US official said. ''This has given gang members a feeling of omnipotence, because they were in [jail] and out three days later, taking reprisals against anyone who opposed them."

Could increasing tax revenue by creating new tax payers be a reason for the importation and legalization of more workers into the system?

But now that the U.S. Senate is considering a broad proposal that could lead to citizenship for migrants who have lived here for at least two years, there is a greater incentive to file a tax return. Some are pulling out their W-2s and heading to the nearest tax office — not just to pay this year's bill but to catch up on back taxes. In interviews, many said they wanted to prove how long they had lived in the United States and that they would be good citizens.

"It's important for all of us to pay our taxes, to have proof that we are working in this country," said Efrain Santa Cruz, 44, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who recently filed his return, "so someday maybe they will give us papers."

Secure the border first before taking other actions and ask less confusing questions about Amnesty.


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