Sergeant Anita Shaw’s Army unit was on a tour in Iraq in early March when she got word that the chaplain wanted to see her. Such a summons always raises questions in a soldier. Shaw wondered if there might be a problem with her job performance or a personality problem she hadn’t noticed with someone in her squad. Having survived the mayhem in Baghdad for six months, the last thing she imagined was that the summons involved a murder back home. But when she got to the chaplain’s office, her commanding officer was waiting. After asking her to sit down, he told her the bad news: “Anita, your son has been murdered.”
The details that came out over the next few days, as Sgt. Shaw made her way home to her grieving family, painted a picture worse than anything she could have imagined. Seventeen year old Jamiel Jr., a good student and outstanding running back at Los Angeles High School, where he had been MVP for three consecutive three years, was three doors away from the Shaw home on March 2, and was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone when he was approached by Pedro Espinoza, a member of the 18th Street Gang. Thinking Jamiel belonged to a rival gang, Espinoza pulled a .45 pistol and shot him once in the stomach and a second time, a coup de grace, in the head. Espinoza had just been let out of county jail the previous day after serving four months for a firearms violation. He was not only a gangbanger but an illegal alien as well.
Over the next few months, the case became a cause célèbre on talk radio. Part of the outrage came from the fact that such a promising life had been snuffed out. Jamiel had been the sort of kid who led in locker room horseplay but also led the team in prayers in its huddle just before the opening kickoff. But there was outrage, too, at the fact that this young man had become a victim of a “sanctuary city” policy that led to hundreds of other deaths, homicides and accidents, caused by illegals around the country in the last few years. (Chris Simcox of the Minutemen has chronicled some of them on his website).
Sgt. Anita Shaw, right, and her ex-husband, Jamiel Shaw Sr, far left.
At the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s recent Restoration Weekend, Sgt. Shaw spoke of her grief and also of her determination to recover something from this tragedy by going on the offensive. (For a video of her appearance, click here). Working with Los Angeles mayoral candidate Walter Moore, Shaw has spent the last few months attempting to qualify “Jamiel’s Law” for the spring 2009 ballot. This legislation would take direct aim at the so-called Special Order 40. Passed thirty years ago at the request of then-Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, it states that “Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.” Special Order 40 was initially meant to protect illegals who were witnesses to or victims of a crime. But over the years, with the growth of a powerful illegal immigrant lobby not only in Los Angeles but all over the country, it became part of the network of protections built into the growing trend toward “sanctuary cities.” Rather than encouraging illegals victimized by a crime to cooperate with police, Special Order 40 protected those committing crimes from scrutiny that might lead to deportation or other measures. Jamiel’s alleged killer, Pedro Espinoza, had just been released from months in county jail without ever having had any police or federal agency check into his immigration status.
“Jamiel’s Law” would deny “sanctuary city” protections for illegal aliens who were members of criminal gangs. The measure seems based on common sense. As Jamiel Shaw Sr., the slain boy’s father, asked the Los Angeles City Council: “If you’re a gang member who is suspected of committing a crime, why can’t they check a database at the police station to see if you’re here illegally?” But the powerful illegal immigrant lobby in Southern California made legislative approval of the measure impossible, forcing the Shaws to engage in a long campaign to gather signatures to put “Jamiel’s Law” on the ballot.
Working with volunteers, they have acquired 56,000 of the 79,000 signatures required to bring Jamiel’s Law to a vote. The deadline for turning in the signatures is December 5. (To view the petition online and also to find out more about Jamiel Shaw Jr., go to www.jamielslaw.com.) Sgt. Anita Shaw believes that this struggle has to do with more than her son’s memory; that she has in fact come home from one war on terror in Iraq to fight another one on the streets of America where the stakes are equally high.