Archive for 2010

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Dear Friends,

As the New Year approaches I have reflected on the past 12 years since Homies Unidos first opened its office in Los Angeles with the dream of helping youth affected by war and gang violence.  We developed programs specifically for these youth hoping that they may find empowerment in positive action, the support to transition out of gangs and a platform to address and change the inhumane treatment of the immigrant community.

We have maintained our doors open to serve over 6,500 youth and their families from the Los Angeles Pico Union’s Central American community.  What, began as a dream has become a reality and today Homies Unidos stands as a nationally recognized organization at the forefront of gang violence prevention and intervention.

As we witnessed through this last election cycle, our immigrant communities have once again become the scapegoat and trigger point for political fear tactics and gangs have been framed as the scary poster child of this debate.  Over the past two years there has been a 23% increase in suppression in our immigrant community by ICE, FBI and local law enforcement agencies, leaving countless families separated from each other and children parentless.

With the assistance of your generosity, Homies Unidos has successfully developed exceptional programs to challenge the effects of this violence. The Epiphany Project, Libertad Con Dignidad and Family Wellness programs brings together youth and their parents, affected by gang violence or deportation, to advocate for their rights. Together we helped strengthen their ability communicate and improve their family relationship to over 130 family members this year.

“Homies Unidos has helped me change my life around and has giving me the opportunity to give back to other youth, I now volunteer in organizing the Art activities and outreaching to over 15 artist so far”, Said Juan Canizales, a former graduate of our Epiphany Project program.

We are convinced that through Epiphany Project classes we our helping to create a new generation of peacemakers committed to a building a better world. The process of those transitioning into a better life is not simple; after completing our 12 week program, graduates endure a minimum of 6-10 laser tattoo removal treatments to shed the last of their former lifestyles off their bodies.

In the past year, our ongoing programs have expanded and include a youth leadership and art program as an alternative to gang activity. We have developed these programs for inner-city youth and young adults as we also embark on a campaign to bring awareness of immigration and criminal justice issues affecting our community. Th e “Hip Hop for Peace” was launched on December 7, 2010 and will continue throughout 2011 with a series of events, bringing together local artist in music and art.

In these critical times, your support will greatly help in the success of our youth. Your ongoing support allows us to continue to provide our youth and their families with the skills and tools needed to overcome the obstacles they face in our community. As a non-profit organization, we rely on the generosity and compassion of our donors, like yourself, without whom we would not have the capacity to create peace in the schools, and keep families united in the community we serve. Please join us as a partner in making 2011 a better and more successful year for Homies Unidos.

Homies Unidos wishes you have a joyful holiday season,

Sincerely,                                                                                                                   Sincerely,

Alex Sanchez                                                                                                            Troy Garity                                                                              Executive Director                                                                                                Board Chair

Hip Hop Festrival For Peace

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
December 11, 2010
at CARECEN Center 12PM to 8PM
2845 W. 7th ST (near Hoover ST.)
Los Angeles CA 9005

Come and Join El Centro Cultural Techantit, CARECEN, Cooperativa Cuscatan and Homies Unidos in a day of music, education and overall fun!!! Meet your Central American  artists and enjoy Homies Unidos’ live graffiti artist at work.

Senators Introduce Comprehensive Reform Bill

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

In the Wake of DREAM Act, Senators Introduce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Will obstructionists in Congress keep using immigration as a political piñata in the name of election politics, or put partisanship aside and fix our broken system?

Last night, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (SB 3932), a bill which takes a broad approach to fixing the wide range of problems plaguing our outdated immigration system. Earlier this month, Sen. Menendez threw his support behind the DREAM Act (which failed in a cloture vote 54-46) and vowed to introduce his own immigration bill in the Senate. While immigration advocates are calling the Menendez-Leahy bill a “step in the right direction,” many remain skeptical whether Congress can muster the political courage to pick up the bill and tackle immigration once and for all. The Menendez-Leahy bill is preceded by a House immigration bill, CIR ASAP (HR 4321), introduced by Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) last year. READ MORE….

Feds Have Been Hiding Evidence From Wiretap Courts

Friday, September 24th, 2010

By Tom Hayden for the NATION

Federal prosecutors have used top leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), known as the most violent gang in the US and Central America, as secret informants over a decade of murders, drug-trafficking and car-jackings across a dozen US states and several Central American countries. During that time, prosecutors obtained more than twenty-one wiretap approvals, plus extensions, to investigate MS-13, failing to tell judges that the gang leaders were already in custody as informants—a possible violation of federal law. READ MORE…

Judge Blocks Part of Arizona Immigrant Law

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

latimes.com/la-naw-arizona-immigration-072810,0,824360.story

SB1070 Injuction10-1413-87

latimes.com

Judge blocks parts of Arizona immigration law

From the Associated Press

10:25 AM PDT, July 28, 2010

PHOENIX

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration law from taking effect, delivering a last-minute victory to opponents of the crackdown.

The overall law will still take effect Thursday, but without the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The judge also put on hold parts of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that the controversial sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues.

The ruling came just as police were making last-minute preparations to begin enforcement of the law at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and protesters were planning a large demonstrations to speak out against the measure. At least one group planned to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them their immigration status.

The volume of the protests will be likely be turned down a few notches because of the ruling by Bolton, a Clinton appointee who suddenly became a crucial figure in the immigration debate when she was assigned the seven lawsuits filed against the Arizona law.

Lawyers for the state contend the law was a constitutionally sound attempt by Arizona — the busiest illegal gateway into the country — to assist federal immigration agents and lessen border woes such as the heavy costs for educating, jailing and providing health care for illegal immigrants.

The opponents argued the law will lead to racial profiling, conflict with federal immigration law and distract local police from fighting more serious crimes. The U.S. Justice Department, civil rights groups and a Phoenix police officer had asked the judge for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new (law),” Bolton ruled. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”

The law was signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in April and immediately revived the national debate on immigration, making it a hot-button issue in the midterm elections.

The law has inspired rallies in Arizona and elsewhere by advocates on both sides of the immigration debate. Some opponents have advocated a tourism boycott of Arizona.

It also led an unknown number of illegal immigrants to leave Arizona for other American states or their home countries.

Federal authorities who are trying to overturn the law have argued that letting the Arizona law stand would create a patchwork of immigration laws nationwide that would needlessly complicate the foreign relations of the United States. Federal lawyers said the law is disrupting U.S. relations with Mexico and other countries and would burden the agency that responds to immigration-status inquiries.

Brewer’s lawyers said Arizona shouldn’t have to suffer from America’s broken immigration system when it has 15,000 police officers who can arrest illegal immigrants.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Key Prosecution Witness Missing in Alex Sanchez Case

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Federal prosecutors soon will be forced to admit that their star witness in the gang conspiracy case against Alex Sanchez is a fugitive still on a crime spree somewhere in Central America.

July 14, 2010
According to prosecutors, the government’s cooperating witness, Juan Bonilla, a k a Zombie, gave statements to FBI and LAPD investigators in El Salvador implicating Alex Sanchez in the May 2006 shooting of Walter Lacinos, a k a

Cameron, in that gang-ridden country. The prosecution claims that Bonilla/Zombie participated in an incriminating wiretapped phone call with Sanchez and others one week before the shooting. The Sanchez defense has strongly argued that the government has the “wrong Zombie,” that it was another Juan Bonilla who took part in the phone call.

The case of the mistaken Zombie aside, now the Salvadoran papers El Mundo and El Diario de Hoy are reporting that the real Zombie is not only a fugitive but has lied to Salvadoran prosecutors about the killings in 2006.

” ‘Zombie’ is on the loose,” El Mundo reported on May 11. The detailed article describes how Zombie offered himself as a witness to the police in the murder of Cameron and others, including a well-known gang intervention worker known as Smoky, who was written up sympathetically by National Public Radio reporter Mandolit del Barco. Smoky, a former MS leader turned peacemaker, law student and father, was killed May 13, 2006. Cameron himself may have been implicated in the killing of Smoky, which would make Cameron’s own death two days later an act of retaliation.

According to the El Mundo account, Zombie told prosecutors that Cameron traveled from Los Angeles to El Salvador to assassinate Smoky. “The latter had come out of anonymity and had achieved fame after appearing in a documentary about gangs, and he belong to an organization to rehabilitate mara [gang] members.”

Zombie was finally arrested in 2006 after committing some twenty home robberies. In June 2008, he received special privileges for cooperating with Salvadoran and US authorities. After testifying against MS in exchange for leniency, Zombie escaped in April 2009 when prosecutors became suspicious of his tales. He disguised himself as a priest, a postal worker and even a prosecutor, the better to gain entry to the homes of the wealthy and later rob them. He also is blamed for several kidnappings, rapes and sexual batteries.

If the Salvadoran media accounts are accurate, Zombie has been a fugitive since before the June 2009 indictment of Alex Sanchez. Government prosecutors have never provided the court with the fact that their witness is missing.

Now, with Zombie’s credibility shattered, it is not clear if the prosecution wants to find him.

Where does this leave the prosecution? They could recognize their mistake and drop the case against Sanchez. But with so much invested in their claim that Sanchez is a “shot caller” leading a “double life,” a responsible retreat from their flawed case is unlikely.

But going forward with the prosecution contains seeds of embarrassment for the government as well. First, they will have to prosecute Sanchez with their central witness a discredited fugitive, and with strong evidence that the Zombie on the wiretaps is not the Zombie the government claims. Second, the other accusation against Sanchez is strikingly similar in its emptiness. He is charged in a gang racketeering conspiracy that took place over a fourteen-year period beginning when he left the gang in the ’90s and concluding in May of last year. Though the government indictment alleges over 150 specific overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy against twenty-four defendants, the majority for selling drugs to government informants, there are no overt acts attributed to Sanchez beyond the disputed wiretaps.

This conspiracy case, then, is about RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a 1970 law that makes prosecution possible on the basis of guilt-by-association. The acronym RICO derives from Edward G. Robinson’s gangster hero, Little Caesar, in the 1930 movie of the same name. In the most famous scene, Robinson goes down after shouting, “Caesar Enrico Bandello, this is Rico speaking. Rico! R-I-C-O! Little Caesar, that’s who! Listen, you crummy flat-footed copper, I’ll show you whether I’ve lost my nerve and my brains!” Released during the 1950s McCarthy period after decades of suppression, the film became a favorite of prosecutors and gang-bangers alike.

The RICO law makes it a crime to “associate” with any “enterprise” through a “pattern” of racketeering activity. The assumption is that street gangs like MS are identical to vertically organized crime structures. There is a presumed board of directors, known as “shot callers,” who are an organized conspiracy responsible for every specific crime committed anywhere by any of the gang’s individual members.

Alex Sanchez left the gang life behind at approximately the time that the present investigation began fifteen years ago. Subsequently, he founded Homies Unidos in Los Angeles, a gang intervention agency that works with young people, including gang members, to prevent violence and open up alternative opportunities. As an intervention worker, his task involves numerous conversations and phone calls with members of street gangs. In 1999, he helped expose the LAPD’s Rampart scandal in which hundreds of young people were subjected to false charges, beaten, jailed and deported, violations that led to federal intervention. Since becoming an intervention worker, Sanchez also has testified as an expert witness in at least eleven federal and state gang conspiracy cases, in which six defendants were found not guilty. One of the government experts he has testified against is LAPD officer Frank Flores, a former Rampart beat detective who, nearly fifteen years later, is the prosecutor’s expert witness against Sanchez in court today. It is fair to say that Sanchez poses a challenge to the prosecution mentality driving the war on gangs.

It is helpful to Sanchez that the prosecution lacks any specific evidence against him, a fact which led to his release on bail six months ago. But under RICO law, often referred to as an Alice in Wonderland statue by defense attorneys, that is beside the point. Prosecutors will try to prove that Sanchez, against all present evidence, is a secret shot caller leading a double life. As their case crumbles, they can be expected to compile a new one.

About the Author

Tom Hayden
Senator Tom Hayden, the Nation Institute’s Carey McWilliams Fellow, has played an active role in American politics and…

One Year Anniversary since the Infamous Arrest of Alex Sanchez

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

June 24, 2010

I was reminded last night of the psychological trauma that children go through when they witness their parents torn apart from them either through violence or incarceration. I spoke with a 15 year old young man who had been a witness to both parents getting arrested by the FBI two and a half years ago. He was mad at the world at how his life had suddenly come to a halt and was flipped over that morning when he saw both of them being dragged away in handcuffs. This young man was trying to deal with his trauma and no one was there to help him through his ordeal, he elected seek help from what was in his neighborhood for a quick fix of his problems.
He joined a gang, got a tattoo and now that his parents were released from prison it has become so hard for him and his family to be what they once were. I looked at him and asked him why was he angry. His answered that he felt his father was disappointed with what he has turn out to be. His eyes started to get watery and said that he wants to change, that he doesn’t want to be in gangs anymore. All he wants is to be understood and so do his parents who are going through the stigma of now being called ex-felons.
It is important for all of us to take extra consideration of those children who have been affected with the trauma when Immigration comes braking the doors of their homes and tear apart parents from U.S. citizen children and housing them in detention centers until they are deported, when law enforcement comes charging into communities arresting individuals putting people in prisons under the three strikes law and many other inhumane laws that continue funneling the parents of U.S. citizen children into warehouses they call rehabilitation centers. They can call them Department of rehabilitation, detention centers it is still a prison. They tear up families. What happens to the children, not only those who are citizens but those who did not have a choice and are now called an immigrant?
This young man reminded me of what my children went through this day one year ago. I was awakened by LAPD, Sheriffs, and FBI officers at six in the morning at my home in Bellflower as part of an FBI Gang Taskforce sweep throughout Los Angeles. In front of my six year old daughter Melissa, my 14 year old son Alex and 13 year old Marlon, while my wife Delia was taking a shower getting ready to head to work. I was taken in shackles after I walk out from my apartment and turn myself over to over 20 armed officers with M16 that they were pointing at me while my children watched, after they had awaken all my neighbors with their screaming ordering for me to turn myself over to them. It was a day I will never forget, neither will my children who I have spoken with them about it, but they don’t really want to have to remind themselves of it and live through it again in their minds. They, unlike this young man that I spoke to last night had a support system, a community that came to heal them through this ordeal, my family, my extended family, all my friends that have stood next to me in the work I do for Homies Unidos, youth whom I helped leave the gang life, they all came together for my children. Forever I will be indebted to all of you and today I invite you to recommit yourselves to do the same for other young men and women who everyday turn to negativity because we are not there for them.
Peace,
Alex Sanchez

ACTION ALERT: JULY 7th – National Juvenile Justice Call-In Day

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

JULY 7th – National Juvenile Justice Call-In Day

Action Alert:  July 7th is National Juvenile Justice Call-In Day—Call your Congressional Representatives and Ask Them to Make Juvenile Justice a Priority This Year!

For too long, “tough on crime” political rhetoric has resulted in juvenile justice laws that are bad for youth and that ultimately increase crime. Research has proven time and time again that there are better, more effective ways to deal with juvenile offenders, and it is time for Congress to act to improve our nation’s juvenile justice system.

Time is running out— if we don’t act now, juvenile justice reform will not happen this year!! We need you to let Congress know that voters care about juvenile justice!

Although there are many items on the agenda for Congress to do this year, three major juvenile justice initiatives remained stalled:

  • Reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which is currently three years overdue for reauthorization.  The JJDPA, first enacted in 1974, promotes the use of effective community-based alternatives to detention, keeps youth out of adult facilities, reduces the disproportionate involvement of youth of color in the system, and promotes other research-driven best practices in the juvenile justice system. Call on Congress to reauthorize the bill now!
  • Increasing appropriations for juvenile justice programs, which were the only category of children’s programs that received a significant decrease in funding in the President’s proposed budget.  In order for the States to make positive changes, they must receive the federal support they need to prevent youth crime and rehabilitate juvenile offenders. We have seen a sharp decline in funding for juvenile justice programs as a whole since FY 2002. Ask Congress to preserve and increase juvenile justice appropriations for the coming fiscal year!
  • Passing the Youth PROMISE Act to promote proven, cost-effective prevention-based strategies to reduce youth crime. Under Youth PROMISE, representatives from the communities facing the greatest juvenile crime challenges will be able to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent youth crime through a coordinated prevention and intervention response.

Action item: We need your help!  On July 7th, contact your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. House Representative and ask them to make juvenile justice a priority in the 111th Congress by:

  • Reauthorizing the JJDPA;
  • Increasing juvenile justice appropriations; and
  • Passing the Youth PROMISE Act

To contact your Congressional Representative and Senators, visit http://sparkaction.org/content/national-juvenile-justice-call-day and enter your zip code.  The numbers for your representatives will appear along with talking points and a feedback form to report on the response you received.

Thank you for your help!

Download:

National Call-in Day Talking Points – 6.24.10-3

Oliver Stone’s new documentary SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Oliver Stone’s new documentary SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Opens Friday July 2nd on 4 screens in the LA AREA!
“ I loved this documentary”
-Bill Maher
“I think this film should be mandatory viewing for every high school student in America …”
– Jesse Ventura, former Governor of Minnesota
“…a VALUABLE and INTERESTING CORRECTIVE to the mainstream media’s often-atrocious coverage of Latin America, and a fascinating account
of the rise of a new generation of political leaders.”
– Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
“LOVED THE MOVIE! Great perspective that people here in the US should see
and hopefully it (will) make them understand what is going on in South America and with US foreign policy.”
-Jason Smith, IMPACTO Latin News
Synopsis: There’s a revolution underway in South America, but most of the world doesn’t know it. Oliver Stone sets out on a road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements as well as the mainstream media’s misperception of South America while interviewing seven of its elected presidents.  In casual conversations with Presidents Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner  (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Nėstor Kirchner,  Fernando Lugo  ( Paraguay ), Rafael Correa ( Ecuador ), and Raúl Castro  ( Cuba ), Stone gains unprecedented access and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region.

Starts Friday 7/2
**Q&A with Oliver Stone on Friday 7/2 after the 7:25PM show**
LAEMMLE’S MONICA 4-PLEX
1332 2nd Street
Santa Monica, 90401
310-478-3836

LAEMMLE’S SUNSET 5
8000 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
310-478-3836
PASADENA
LAEMMLE’S PLAYHOUSE 7
673 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, 91101
626-844-6500
WANT TO BRING A GROUP? Get a discount at the above Laemmle theatres by buying 25 tickets or more, click here for more info.

ORANGE COUNTY
REGENCY SOUTH COAST VILLAGE
1561 W. Sunflower Ave.
Sunflower & South Coast Plaza Drive
Santa Ana, CA   92704
(714) 557-5701

South of the Border will be playing in these theaters and more nationwide:
June 25
NYC
Angelika Film Center
July 2
Los Angeles
Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex and Laemmle’s Sunset 5
Pasadena
Laemmle’s Playhouse 7
Santa Ana
Regency South Coast Village
Washington DC
AMC Loews Shirlington 7
July 9
Chicago
Showplace ICON Roosevelt Collection
July 16
San Francisco
Sundance Kabuki Cinema
Berkeley
Rialto Cinemas Elmwood
Palm Springs
Cinemas Palm D’Or
July 23
Phoenix
Harkins Valley Art
Dallas
AMC Grand 24
Houston
AMC Studio 30
July 30
Minneapolis
Showplace ICON at The West End
Seattle
Regal Meridian 16

Somos Arizona Tambien

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Homies Unidos urges everyone to stand witht the people of Arizona against these Draconian policies that legislate racial profiling.

Learn more about the Alto Arizona campaign here.

And sign the Presente.org – Shame on Arizona – petition here.


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