The city of Newark, New Jersey, made national news recently after the execution-style slaying of three college students. They were slain by a gang allegedly headed by an illegal alien who had long ago made his violent nature obvious to authorities.
History repeats itself. This isn’t the first time Newark was the scene of a tragedy caused by lax enforcement of the immigration laws.
Here’s an article from the Jan. 21, 1993, edition of the Newark Star-Ledger:
“Muslim fundamentalists converged in Newark yesterday, keeping a six-hour vigil on a street outside the building where immigration officials held a lengthy deportation hearing for Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Islamic spiritual leader who has been called 'the Ayatollah Khomeini of Egypt.' Dozens of Newark police were called in to seal off Rector Street to all traffic at 11 a.m., after more than 100 Muslim supporters gathered outside a small building where the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has rented space for judicial reviews. Federal officials are seeking the ouster of the 54-year-old blind cleric on grounds that he falsified information on his visa application.”
That article didn’t make national news. But the events of the following Feb. 26 did. That was when a group of Islamic terrorists under the Blind Sheik’s direction parked an explosives-laden van in a garage under the World Trade Center. If Rahman’s followers had used a bit more explosives or placed the van a bit more carefully, there is an excellent chance that the tower would have collapsed sideways, killing perhaps 10 times as many people as died in the second Trade Center attack eight years later.
In light of that event, it is impossible to read the above newspaper article without coming to a simple, logical conclusion about Americans: We are really stupid.
It’s not as though Rahman was sneaking around in the shadows pretending to love America while he put together his plans. Nope, he was right out there in the open, telling us how much he hated us in sermons in radical mosques in Jersey City and Brooklyn. Not only that, but he got into the U.S. only because an immigrations agent failed to spot his name on a terrorist watch list. The Egyptian government had warned U.S. officials that Rahman was a deadly terrorist. But instead of booting him out for that obvious reason, the INS wanted to deport him for – and I am not making this up – check fraud. The blind sheik had bounced a check in Egypt six years earlier.
You’d think that sort of thing would have been a wake-up call for the Democratic administration in Washington. But then you’d also think the Sept.11, 2001, attacks would have been a wake-up call for the Republican administration in power by then. But there’s no waking up the Beltway crowd when it comes to the perils of permitting shady characters to circulate in an underworld of illegals. Enforcing immigration law is simply not p.c. in D.C.
This mental paralysis led directly to the events on the evening of Aug. 4 in Newark. On a Saturday night, four young people gathered in a schoolyard to pass the time. This wasn’t a particularly bad neighborhood and they were not bad kids. They were all enrolled for the fall semester at Delaware State University, a historically black college where they participated in such activities as the school band..
Soon they noticed some questionable characters drifting into the schoolyard. They seemed to be gang members, “shittums” in Newark parlance. Actually I’ve never seen that word in print, though I’ve been hearing it from Newark cops for a decade or more. It is a common term for the hoodlums that have ruled the Newark streets for the past few decades, often in a tacit alliance with the corrupt Democratic machine that runs the city.
In any event, Terrance Aeriel, his sister Natasha, Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower began sending text messages to each other on their cell phones warning that they needed to get out of there. They didn’t act soon enough. Before long, they were lined up against a wall and shot in the back of the head. The killers were inept however. Natasha survived the gunshot and would soon be telling police about the gang that gathered in the schoolyard that night to stage the attack.
In the meantime, however, the liberal outrage machine swung into high gear. Politicians and pundits began pontificating on the root causes of the killing. The problem was a lack of caring by the white suburbanites who wouldn’t spend the money to give Newark good schools, we were told. That sounds nice, except for the fact that Newark has one of the most expensive public school systems on Earth, with a per-pupil cost will in excess of $20,000 a year. We also heard about the need for the government to provide more housing. But government housing was the problem in Newark, not the solution. The biggest single contribution government has made to Newark in the past decade has been to blow up the high-rise slums created at taxpayer expense.
The corruption of the Democratic machine wasn’t mentioned either, even though the former mayor, the wonderfully named Sharpe James, had recently been indicted for shady land deals with one of his many apparent mistresses. Also unmentioned was the fact that Newark occupies what should be the most valuable piece of real estate on the planet. It has an airport. It has a seaport. All the major highways of the Northeast corridor run through it, as do all the major rail lines. The financial center of the universe, Manhattan, sits on the horizon to the east.
Only government could screw this up. The ex-mayor had acquired a Rolls Royce, a massive yacht and a number of vacation homes during his years of public service. He had also acquired the support and loyalty of Jon Corzine, the former Goldman-Sachs exec who bought the governorship with his millions.
The gun-grabbers also weighed in with the usual calls to crack down on illegal guns. But it soon developed that the murders were spurred not so much by illegal guns as by illegal people. By the following Thursday, police had collared a 28-year-old illegal alien from Peru by the name of Jose Lachira Carranza. They charged him with being the ringleader of the gang, which was made up mostly of teenagers. On the lam was 23-year-old Rodolfo Godinez, a native Nicaraguan who had a green card but who should have had it revoked years earlier when he was arrested on charges that he had assaulted and robbed three people.
As the details of the crime past hit the press, the public began to split from the politicians. It turned out that Carranza had been arrested and charged with aggravated assault last fall after a bar fight. He got out on bail. Then he was arrested on child-molestation charges. He got out on bail. He was then arrested on child molestation charges again, in a different county. He got out on bail again.
None of this shocked the politicians of Essex County, also run by a Democratic machine. For years Newark had been a so-called “sanctuary city” in which cops were barred from turning illegals over to the feds. There was an exception for felons, but neither the city nor the county took advantage of it regularly. So the pols thought it perfectly natural that such characters would be roaming the streets.
The public saw it differently. When I began writing about the illegal-alien angle in the Star-Ledger, where I am an opinion columnist, I heard from dozens of people who were outraged that Carranza was not deported after his first arrest. The typical American naively believes that criminal illegal aliens are routinely deported after arrest. In fact, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) is too underfunded and understaffed to deal with all but the most serious criminals.
This bothers Don Cresitello. He is the mayor of Morristown, a historic town a few miles to the west of Newark where George Washington not only slept, but spent the entire winter of 1779-1780. Though Cresitello is in every other respect a mainstream Democrat, and even has a state job, he parts with the party on the issue of illegal immigration.
By pure coincidence, the week before the Newark slayings, Cresitello had appeared at a rally on the steps of the Morristown city hall that was hosted by a local group called the ProAmerica Society. The speakers at the rally supported the mayor’s efforts to win federal 287 (g) status for the local cops. This program, passed by Congress in 1996, permits the deputization of local police to enforce federal immigration law. Bush, like Clinton before him, has largely ignored it.
Morristown is one of the many towns around the country that have become staging areas for day laborers. They congregate by the dozens every morning near the train station waiting to be picked up by employers. The cliché is that most of these day laborers are hard-working people who don’t commit crimes. This is undeniable. Also undeniable, however, is that wherever a large underground society develops, there will be a percentage of criminals taking advantage of the clandestine nature of that society.
“I had MS-13 living just a block from my housing and running a drug and prostitution ring,” told me when I interviewed him after the rally. MS-13 is commonly referred to as a Salvadoran gang, but that is unfair to El Salvador, a country that I have visited on many occasion. I have never even met an impolite teenager, never mind a violent one in El Salvador.
This isn’t the case in Los Angeles, where MS-13 actually began in the 1970s. The combination of great personal freedom and a welfare state here in the United States can turn good kids bad pretty fast.
It wasn’t just the gangs that bothered Cresitello. There was also the simple problem of identifying illegals who were stopped by police for such offenses as driving without a license. They would give a false name and then never show up in court. Was it too much to ask that someone sort this out?
Evidently so. After the rally, which drew a number of leftist protesters, some of them violent, Cresitello was branded a racist by liberal bloggers and shunned by his fellow Democrats. In addition to taking heat from his fellow Democrats, the mayor also came under criticism from Republicans. The U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a Republican from the Morristown area by the name of Chris Christie, was interviewed in the local paper shortly after the rally. In the interview, Christie attacked Cresitello for “grandstanding.” On the question of illegal immigration, Christie said, "It is an enormous problem, and we're doing, I think, the best we can."
The feds, of course, are not doing the best they can. They’re doing the least they can. And in something of a masterpiece of bad timing, the interview came out the very day the news of the Newark triple homicide broke. It soon turned out that two of the teenagers accused of the killings had bragged of MS-13 connections on their MySpace pages. One of the young miscreants even turned out to live in Morristown, within blocks of where the rally took place. Rarely has a politician been proven so right so quickly. Cresitello was a prophet, but he was a prophet without honor, at least in his own party.
The national news media had begun to cover the murders as an illegal-alien story. The Fox News crowd piled on, with Bill O’Reilly slamming Newark Mayor Cory Booker for stating that his cops shouldn’t enforce immigration law. An O’Reilly viewer mailed in this insight: "If bin Laden were to sneak into Newark, he'd be safer than in Pakistan."
But the Democrats were still trying to peddle the liberal angle on the killings. More than a week after the killings, the governor headed up a press conference in Newark that was intended to push gun control as a solution to Newark’s homicide problem. The highlight of the plan was a law that would require anyone convicted of a gun crime to register with the police. We were supposed to believe, in other words, that some illegal alien who didn’t even bother to tell immigration officials he was in the country was somehow going to come forward and tell the city he’d been arrested for using a gun. The Dems also announced a $3 million plan to mount special gunshot-detecting videocameras around the city. After a half-century of Democratic domination, in other words, the city remained so violent that the big problem was the failure to videotape the violence.
When a reporter asked about the question that the rest of America was discussing, the immigration status of the accused, Corzine replied "Why don't we deal with that at another time?”
I managed to get in a question about what the governor planned to do to prevent future felons from escaping deportation. Corzine referred back to the prior remarks of his attorney general, Anne Milgram. But she had refused comment. So the issue was dodged for another day.
After that press conference I got talking to a Democratic official who had a slightly different take. Ed DeFazio is the prosecutor in neighboring Hudson County, which is run by one of the most fabled machines in American politics. The Hudson County Dems certainly have their faults, but like the Chicago Democrats, they at least know how to run a city.
DeFazio told me his office had long had the exact policy that the governor had been hemming and hawing about. He said his office regularly turns illegal-alien criminals over to ICE.
"These guys are not supposed to be in the country in the first place,” DeFazio asked. “What am I missing?"
Not a thing. But the national Republicans are missing a lot when they let Democrats like Cresitello and DeFazio get to the right of them on an issue that generates such outrage. DeFazio told me his biggest problem was that the feds can’t handle all the criminal illegal aliens he wants to give them. But if the feds can’t handle even the minority of illegal aliens who are caught committing crimes, then how will they ever straighten out the immigration status of the 10 million illegals currently within our borders?
When I later pressed Christie on this subject, he replied, "I can't even begin to think of how it would be done."
I can’t either, at least not under the current administration. Bush has gone so far as to declare that he wants an immigration policy "that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee." In that, he agrees with the protestor at that Morristown rally who held up a sign reading "Working people have no borders."
The consensus among the both parties is that the United States will never start enforcing its immigration laws, at least not for the foreseeable future.
The public feels otherwise, though. A few days after that press conference, the Corzine administration endorsed the primary reform that Mayor Cresitello had sought. Attorney General Milgram held a press conference to announce a new policy: From now on, cops all over New Jersey would hand over to the feds any illegal alien arrested for a felony or for drunken driving.
So that’s a start. But what about that illegal-alien subculture that hid Godinez for so long? The Nicaraguan native was wanted by police ever since he failed to appear in court in 2003. After the killings, he headed south with an accomplice and hid in the underworld for more than a week as he tried to escape over the Mexican border. Police finally collared him living in a house full of illegal aliens in Maryland.
The theory of the liberals – a category into which I place Bush, at least in the recently ended Karl Rove era - is that the government can make America into such a wonderful, welcoming society that even homicidal maniacs can be permitted to walk among us unchallenged. We don’t have to know who’s in our country. We just have to know that the wonderful, caring government will somehow magically transform them into good citizens.
As this mini-9/11massacre in Newark showed, this theory is flawed. Sooner or later, the Beltway crowd is going to have to realize that we need to know who is in our country. Otherwise, something really dreadful will happen. Maybe some foreigner will even do something really horrendous, like try to blow up the World Trade Center.
Oh, wait, they did that already – twice. The public got the message here in New Jersey. Funny how no one in Washington seems to have noticed.