I thought it was bad enough that the government allows some illegal immigrants to stay in the country despite the fact that they are gang members.
I didn’t realize that the government allows some illegal immigrants to stay in the country because they are gang members.
In a story I couldn’t make up if I tried, the L.A. Times reports on Gerson Alvarado-Veliz, an illegal immigrant and gang member who was deported to Guatemala after serving a sentence in California for dealing crack cocaine. Alvarado-Veliz claims that he was targeted by death squads in Guatemala, who identified him as a gang member by his tattoos. The article reports that Alvarado-Veliz “knew he had to flee Guatemala or be killed. So he sneaked back into the United States.”
Why did he come here, rather than Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, or any number of other places? Because only the United States is crazy enough to grant asylum to somebody because they are a gang member:
Now the 23-year-old is sitting in an Arizona immigration detention facility after an arrest related to charges of marijuana possession and driving on a suspended license. He’s citing his past as a gang member as the reason he should be granted asylum and allowed to remain in the U.S.
. . . .
In 2005, a U.S. immigration judge found Alvarado-Veliz credible and granted him the right to stay in the U.S. legally.
The decision was later reversed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and is now pending before the 9th Circuit along with several other similar cases.
It turns out that several gang members have used this absurd strategy before, with success:
[I]mmigration judges have in recent years begun granting some former gang members the right to stay.
In 2005, a former gangster from Guatemala, who sold drugs for Long Beach’s East Side Longo gang, was granted one of the two lesser forms of relief, withholding of removal.
Also in 2005, a gang member who at age 7 joined the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang in El Salvador, also called MS-13, and was later convicted of carrying a concealed weapon in Los Angeles, won the right to stay in the U.S. when an immigration judge ruled that his former gang membership and tattoos would put him at risk of persecution if he were returned. That decision was reversed, so his case is also pending before the 9th Circuit court.
A former gangster from Honduras convicted of grand theft auto as a member of Los Angeles’ Down for Anything gang won the right to stay in the U.S. in 2005 because of his past gang affiliation. In 2002, a former member of MS-13 in Los Angeles who was born in El Salvador won asylum with the backing of then-mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to a sob-story account of Alvarado-Veliz’s life:
Alvarado-Veliz’s life, as he describes it, has been full of bad breaks and bad choices.
. . . .
It’s not possible to verify parts of his story, but Alvarado-Veliz describes how — despite refraining from criminal or gang activity in Guatemala — the tattoos on his face, neck and arms and his California gang dress and mannerisms were enough for police to target him.
“It’s not possible to verify parts of his story” — but we’ll report them anyway, invoking the “Sob Story Exception” to the usual rules of journalism. You’d think that editors would be wary of relying on the Sob Story Exception so soon after the paper’s recent embarrassing experience with “rehabilitated” gang member Hector Marroquin. But you’d be wrong.
Incidentally, Alvarado-Veliz, who claimed to refrain from criminal activity in Guatemala, didn’t manage to do so here. He was convicted of disturbing the peace, petty theft, and driving on a suspended license after entering the United States illegally for the third time in 2003. That doesn’t stop the L.A. Times from ending the piece in this way (warning, have your hankies ready before you proceed):
In prison, he leads a daily Bible study and on Sundays translates the prison chaplain’s sermon for the mostly Spanish-speaking inmates. He faces another year before a court decision is likely. He believes the jail time and previous torture are punishment enough for his past. Jesus Christ, he said, taught forgiveness.
He says he hopes one day to be a youth minister targeting those involved in gangs and drugs in Los Angeles.
“My past is pretty messed up, but I think I can use it to the benefit of other people,” he said.
The piece is reminiscent of the plaintive end to the puff piece the paper did on Hector Marroquin, who was later reported to have continuing ties to the Mexican Mafia and suspicious connections to multiple homicides:
“If a good man can turn bad, how come a bad man can’t turn good?” Big Hector asked.
This puff piece has convinced me: Alvarado-Veliz must stay! Write your local Congressperson and demand that this country retain its illegal immigrant gang members!
The time to act is now.