Posts Tagged ‘Homies Unidos’

El Salvador Gang Truce One-year Anniversary, TAGSPPES Statement/Declaración de TAGSPPES Sobre el Aniversario de Un Año de la Tregua en El Salvador

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
TAGSPPES Statement on the One-year Anniversary of the Truce in El Salvador
Statement: 
March 9th 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of the truce between El Salvador’s two major gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18. The peace agreement can be credited with saving thousands of lives and dropping El Salvador for the first time off the list of countries with the highest homicide rates for 2012. Despite much public skepticism about the reliability and durability of the truce, the benefits of the truce continue to grow. It is important to recognize what an enormous and historic achievement this peace represents, and to credit the small group of individuals and groups that have worked tirelessly to make this peace a reality — in particular the leadership of MS-13 and Barrio 18, the facilitators of the truce, Raul Mijango and Monsignor Fabio Collindres and their team, and those within the Salvadoran government who sup-ported this process. The Organization of American States (OAS) deserves special mention for its courageous stand as guarantor of the truce and the leadership it has taken in the international community.

It is imperative that this process, which has established greater public safety in El Salvador than years of expensive and harsh law enforcement, be supported by all stakeholders. The benefits of a safer and more peaceful society accrue and belong to all of Salvadorans , not only the participants of the truce. The introduction of the second phase, the violence free municipalities, is a welcome opportunity to share the peace dividend from the truce to some of the communities most affected by violence in El Salvador. The formation of the Fundacion Humanitario and the addition of three other gangs (Mao Mao, La Máquina y la Mirada Locos), Father Antonio Rodriguez and mayors from both major political parties to the ranks of those supporting the truce and actively working for peace gives strength and additional legitimacy to the process.

However despite the success of the peace process and additional supporters, there is much more sup-port required to ensure the peace lasts and cycle of violence that has afflicted El Salvador for over thirty years ends. For this reason it is imperative that all of Salvador-an society be part of this process in order for it to succeed.

Download PDF Complete Report

Los Angeles, Alex Sanchez: asanchez@homiesunidos.org

New York, steve.vigil@gmail.com
Washington D.C., Luis Cardona: luiscardo@hotmail.com and Juan Pacheco: peacewarrior703@gmail.com
YouTube: tagsppes

Declaración de TAGSPPES Sobre el Aniversario de Un Año de la Tregua en 
El Salvador

Declaración: 

El 9 de marzo 2013, se cumplió el primer aniversario de la tregua entre las dos pandillas más grandes de El Salvador, MS-13 y Barrio 18. Se puede dar crédito al acuerdo de paz por salvar miles de vidas y por sacar a El Salvador por primera vez fuera de la lista de países con las tasas más altas de homicidios en el 2012. A pesar de un gran escepticismo público acerca de la durabilidad de la tregua, los beneficios de la tregua continúan creciendo. Es importante reconocer que esta paz representa un gran logro histórico, y se puede dar crédito a los individuos y grupos que han trabajado incansablemente para hacer que esta paz sea una realidad – en particular el liderazgo de la MS-13 y Barrio 18, los facilitadores de la tregua, Raul Mijango y Monseñor Fabio Colindres y sus equipo, y a los que estan dentro del gobierno salvadoreno que apoyaron a este proceso. La Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), merece una mención especial por su valiente posición de garante de la tregua y el liderazgo que ha tenido en la comunidad internacional.

Es importante que este proceso, que ha establecido una mayor seguridad pública en El Salvador que en los años de aplicación de la ley costosa y extrema (Mano Dura), siga adelante con el apoyo de todos los grupos de interes. Los beneficios de una sociedad más segura y más pacífica pertenecen a toda la sociedad salvadoreña, no sólo a los participantes de la tregua. La introducción de la segunda fase, los municipios libres de violencia, es una buena oportunidad para compartir el dividendo de la paz de la tregua a algunas de las comunidades más afectadas por la violencia en El Salvador. También es importante la formación de la Fundación Humanitario y la adición de tres otras pandillas (Mao Mao, La Máquina y la Mirada Locos), Padre Toño y los alcaldes de los dos partidos políticos principales en las filas para que apoyen a la tregua y trabajen activamente por la paz, dar fuerza, y den legitimidad adicional al proceso.
Sin embargo, a pesar del éxito del proceso de paz y los partidarios adicionales, se necesita más apoyo para asegurar que la paz siga y el ciclo de la violencia que ha afectado a El Salvador desde hace más de treinta años finalise. Por esta razón, es importante que todos los de la sociedad salvadoreña sean parte de este proceso, para que tenga éxito.

Bajar Reporte Complete

Los Angeles, Alex Sanchez: asanchez@homiesunidos.org

New York, steve.vigil@gmail.com
Washington D.C., Luis Cardona: luiscardo@hotmail.com and Juan Pacheco: peacewarrior703@gmail.com
YouTube: tagsppes

 

Hearing To Dismiss all Charges Against Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Title Bar 2
– All Charges to be dropped against Alex Sanchez Wednesday, January 16th at 8:30 a.m.
– Press conference with supporters of Alex Sanchez after hearing
 

CONTACT: Elvira Padilla 213-399-2606

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Government Requests that Court Drop RICO Charges Against Peacemaker Alex Sanchez:

Defense reveals flaws in 2009 Grand Jury indictment

Los Angeles, California – January 15, 2013 – After a three-and-a-half-year ordeal that began in June of 2009, the government has requested that the court dismiss all the charges brought in a RICO grand jury indictment against peacemaker Alex Sanchez.  According to the official filing, the government specifically reserves the right to re-indict.   Alex Sanchez now awaits a court order issued by Judge Fischer that will make the dismissal final, but by all indications, a new chapter can begin for Sanchez, his family and supporters. A press conference will be held on January 16 after court hearing.

Most of all Sanchez is relieved that his name will be cleared and he can begin to rebuild his life. Sanchez and his attorney Amy Jacks released the following statement. “We applaud the government for conscientiously re-evaluating the case and recognizing that the evidence it presented to the grand jury does not support the charges brought against Alex.  This has been a long time coming but the government has now made the right decision by recommending dismissal of the case against Alex.  If the court grants the government’s motion, Alex can focus on what he has done so well for many years: helping our community with gang intervention and prevention and promoting peaceful solutions to our conflicts.”

History. On June 24, 2009, internationally recognized human rights defender and peacemaker Alex Sanchez was erroneously named in a 66-page federal indictment, charging him and twenty-three others under the RICO Act, with being active members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and alleging criminal acts of conspiracy.

Alex Sanchez was denied bail twice, first by Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg in June 2009 and by Judge Manuel Real in October 2009. As guarantee that Alex did not pose a flight risk or danger to his community, the court was presented with overwhelming support from the community: more than $2.5 million in sureties of affidavit and property deeds and hundreds of letters testifying to Alexʼs character from local residents, prominent academics, civic and community leaders, law enforcement and peace workers. Alex Sanchez remained imprisoned for over 6 months. His legal team then led by Kerry Bensinger appealed the October 2009 ruling to the Ninth Circuit and they ordered Judge Real to reopen the bail hearing and make his decision based on “findings of fact.” Alex was granted bail on January 13th, 2010.

Supporters always maintained that Alex should not be on trial to begin with. The public outcry against his indictment led to We Are Alex organizing chapters to open across the country to bring attention to his case and important work.

WHAT/WHO:     Press Conference with peacemaker Alex Sanchez, his attorney and supporters

WHEN:               Wednesday, January 16th 8:30 a.m.

WHERE:             Roybal Federal Building 8th Floor

255 East Temple Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 894-1565 or (213) 894-2215

AlexHappy

WHO IS ALEX SANCHEZ?   
Cuentame follows the story of Alex Sanchez

Sign up, check it out and pass it around.

Alex Bust 2

 We Are Alex

This video was made by supporter and director of the documentary Fruits of War, Josiah Hooper.

Check it out and pass it around.

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please forward this email to all concerned communities by using the “forward email” button below or post this email to                              your site by using the “share” button below. peace.

 

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We Are Alex: Alex Sanchez Statement On Government’s Decision To Drop His Case

Friday, January 4th, 2013

On Monday December 17, I was notified by my attorney Amy Jacks of the intention of the government to dismiss the R.I.C.O (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) case. I immediately called my family and told my wife Delia, between sobs of relief. I then called the people who have been at the forefront in my defense through the We Are Alex campaign. I have not slept well this couple of days but soon I will. I applaud the government for making the right decision to dismiss the case. I am innocent of these charges and told the government they had made mistakes since I was indicted 3 and half years ago. I feel confident that the government will make the right decision as to re-filing the case.
On behalf of my family, community and close friends I extend the gratitude to all the people who have stood next to me and believed from the beginning that this case was a distraction from the work that has been the focus of Homies Unidos. We have not stopped the work, which is greatly needed in our community, but our funding has suffered since my indictment. We expect that we will get more support for the programs which have been reduced significantly since the indictment.
I will look back at this day and will be forever grateful of all who stood firmly next to me in this extremely difficult time and provided support to my family when they most needed it. I have taken my work seriously and with integrity and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Judge Dale Fischer may sign the order dismissing my case any day or wait until January 16 at 2:30 when we had schedule the hearing of the motions.

You may contact 213-383-7484 for more information.
Peace,
Alex Sanchez

Articles on the government decision:

Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod

For Alex Sanchez, justice delayed or justice denied?

WHY GANG CHARGES WERE DROPPED AGAINST ALEX SANCHEZ

California Prisoners Make Historic Call for Peace between Racial Groups in California Prisons & Jails

Monday, October 1st, 2012
  • For Immediate Release—September 12, 2012
  • California Prisoners Make Historic Call for Peace between Racial Groups in California Prisons & Jails
  • Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
  • Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
  • 510.444.0484
  • Los Angeles contacts: Isaac Barrera . 3233315257 . Isaac@theiyc.org

Facebook Invite For Los Angeles Press Conference:

https://www.facebook.com/events/121279881355669/121338414683149/?comment_id=121338851349772&notif_t=event_mall_reply

Oakland—Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison advocacy organizations. It is signed by several prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. The Short Corridor refers to a section of Pelican Bay Prison’s notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU). Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation of nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails. “This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end,” the statement says. It also calls on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes. The Short Corridor Collective states, “If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues.” In the past, California prisoners have attempted to collaborate with the Department of Corrections to bring an end to the hostilities, but CDCR has been largely unresponsive to prisoners’ requests. The statement warns prisoners that they expect prison officials to attempt to undermine this agreement.

“My long-time experience in urban peace issues, gang truces, prevention and intervention, is that when gang leaders and prisoners take full stock of the violence, and how they can contribute to the peace, such peace will be strong, lasting, and deep. I honor this effort as expressed in this statement,” says Luis J. Rodriguez, renowned violence intervention worker and award-winning author of Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. Rodriguez has helped broker gang truces throughout the US as well as in other parts of the world. This spring, Rodriguez was involved in a historic truce between gangs in El Salvador leading to a 70% drop in violence in that country. According to Rodriguez, “What is needed now—and where most peace efforts fail—is the meaningful and long-lasting support of society and government, in the form of prison reform, training, education, drug and mental health treatment and proper health care. We need an end to repressive measures that only feed into the violence and traumas.”

Azadeh Zohrabi of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition sees the agreement as a positive development that stems from last year’s hunger strikes. “While living through some of the worst conditions imaginable, the authors of this statement continue to work for change,” states Zohrabi.

“While the prison administration drags its feet on even the most basic reforms, these guys are trying to build peace throughout the system. That says a lot their humanity and hope.”

Advocates and the Short Corridor Collective are eager to spread the word as far and wide as possible and implement peace plans throughout California’s prisons and jails. “We must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners], and our best interests,” says the Collective. “The reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole.”

The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective has strongly requested that its statement be read and referred to in whole. It can be found here:
http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/short-corridor-collective-calls-for-statewide-end-to-hostilities/

Vigil: Commemorating 100 Days of the Gang Truce In

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Vigil: Commemorating 100 Days of the Gang Truce In 

El Salvador

mobilizeSunday, 17th 2012

CARECEN form 6PM to 8PM

Contact: Rodrigo Vasquez at 323-667-8297 

2845 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005

Press Release

                                                        Press Kit

The Transnational Advisory Group In Support of the Peace Process in El Salvador invites all of you The commemoration of 100 days the gang truce has brought peace in our neighborhoods of El Salvador. Under skepticism and criticism, The gang members continue forward into a long term peace process.#

The gangs have made good will gestures to the community by declaring that the schools are now “Safe Zones” and no force recruitment will take place, to gain community support. Although this is not the answer that we would expect from our men and women who have been killing themselves over letters and numbers, this is a positive step forward as supporters of the peace process we ask for a total stop to all illicit activity. We cannot say that the zero tolerance initiatives pushed by the former president and continued by our current president in El Salvador has reduced violence because repression tactics have made this problem bigger. As such we need to understand that the gang members have been part of the problem, in so, they should be part of the solution.

The time is now to invest in our youth and bring economic development programs to El Salvador. Programs that will hire our youth who are living in poverty and stop our youth from joining gangs.

There have been over 700 deaths prevented since the truce started. So let’s give this historic gang truce a chance.

*Bring several candles*

  100 Days of Peace

Recent articles read here:

Peace Is Breaking Out Among Salvadoran Gang Members:

http://www.thenation.com/article/167875/peace-breaking-out-among-salvadoran-gang-members

Support Mounts for Salvadoran Gang Truce:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-hayden/salvadoran-gang-truce_b_1551638.html

SUPPORT MOUNTS FOR SALVADORAN GANG TRUCE

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

mobilizeSUPPORT MOUNTS FOR SALVADORAN GANG TRUCE
BY TOM HAYDEN

Longtime gang peace process advocates in Los Angeles announced new support on Memorial Day for the 11-week truce called by incarcerated Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gang leaders which has sharply reduced homicides in El Salvador

An estimated 700 lives have been saved since March as homicide rates have fallen from 14-15 to 4-5 per day, or a 65 percent reduction. For the first time in decades, polling shows Salvadoran public opinion defining poverty reduction as their first priority, ahead of sweeps and mass detention. The truce, which is supported by Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes, began Mar. 9 when 30 truce leaders were transferred from a super-max prison to high-security facilities where they were permitted contacts with family and friends. The transfer was approved by the Salvadoran Minister of Justice and Security David Munguia. On March 20, it was confirmed that mediation efforts were being led Raul Mijango, a former guerrilla commandante and legislator, and the head chaplain of the armed forces and police, Bishop Fabio Colindres.

As LA-based peace advocates gathered Monday at La Placita church on Olvera Street, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States [OAS] was set to travel on a supportive visit to El Salvador, to be followed by United Nations and European Union representatives.

A new “Transitional Advisory Group in Support of the Peace Process in El Salvador” was announced at the LA press conference. The twenty-member committee includes a new official presence  in gang peace efforts, Paula Cruz Takash, president of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, and a cross-section of leaders with deep roots in past gang peace efforts, including the author Luis Rodriguez and his wife Trini of the Tia Chucha Cultural Center, Aquil Basheer and “Niko” of Maximum Force Enterprise, Aqeela Sherrells of the original Watts truce, Enrique Hurtado of Aztecs Rising, Angela Sambrano of CARACEN, Fr. Michael Kennedy of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, Fr. Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, Hector Verdugo, also of Homeboy, and Javier Stauring of the LA Archdiocese.  Chairing the press conference was Silvia Beltran, former director of Homies Unidos and currently on the staff of the LA City Council. Also speaking were a Salvadoran student at Cal State Northridge, Elvira Padilla, and a sister of one of the incarcerated men, Mayra Rivas.

The new transnational committee is represented in Washington DC by Luis Cardona and Carmen Perez of the Gathering for Justice [founded by Harry Belafonte] and Juan Pacheco, director of Barrios Unidos.

The purposes of the transnational committee are to work for the safety of those involved in the Salvadoran truce, doing an inventory of the gang members specific needs, and building support and resources for the community-led process. Needs identified so far include: new mattresses for family visits, mental and medical health services, sentence reductions for good conduct, and vocational training in prison with job placement upon release. The MS and 18th Street representatives also call on the army and police to control and prevent ongoing human rights violations, and protect the safety of the peace process  Female gang members are demanding the involvement of women’s and family service organizations to address their specific needs.

Besides initiating the truce, the gang leaders so far have defined schools as “safe zones”, ordered the end of  forced recruitment of young people, and suspend criminal activities and  attacks on each other.

Luis Rodriguez and Aqeela Sherrells spoke passionately and at length about the history of past peace process efforts in Watts, East Los Angeles, and among deported gang members in El Salvador. “Peace comes from the heart of people, from a rejection of violence by the people, and when it comes from the ground up we must stand with them”, Rodriguez began. “This has happened before, has been sabotaged before, and failed before for lack of resources and respect, but out of every failure there rise new peace warriors.” Rodriguez said he sees “peace surging again, and we have to learn the lesson that peace doesn’t come from institutions, peace doesn’t come from peaceful people, peace can come in the end from the people who began the violence, the best sometimes can come from the worst.”

Sherrells recalled that 20,000 died in LA’s gang wars between Crips and Bloods before the 1992 truce. “It was a war zone, but we created a culture of peace on the streets”, he said,  attributing ten percent of the violence reduction to policing. “Gangs are not inherently negative, do not come like outside aliens, but arise among our sons and daughters, and they need healing, a public health approach, a community-based approach.” He pointed out that gang homicides have continued to fall in Los Angeles even while poverty rates have been climbing. “We love you”, he declared to the largely-immigrant gathering. Bashir, an ex-Panther, added that “we have to unify or die.”

In the most dramatic moment of the day, Homies Unidos leader Alex Sanchez spoke for the first time in public since his June 2009 federal indictment on gang conspiracy charges. Los Angeles police anti-gang officers and prosecutors have charged Sanchez, a former MS member, with continuing to secretly participate in the gang as a so-called “shot caller.” Sanchez and his many supporters argue that a key role in violence reduction can be played by respected former gang members when they mediate conflicts and create alternatives to the violent gang life. But any such “association” is suspect to law enforcement and often prohibited by anti-gang laws and regulations.

Sanchez was arrested by the LAPD and faced deportation over a decade ago, but all charges were dropped and a federal immigration judge granted Sanchez political asylum. He was arrested again in 2009, charged with multiple conspiracies,. He was granted bail in 2010 after representatives of the LAPD and FBI were unable to prove in federal court that he would be a social danger if released. His trial now is set for next June.

Imprisoned Salvadoran gang members and their families,  as well as Salvadoran officials have made phone requests for Sanchez to intervene as a mediator and coalition-builder on behalf of the fragile process. The irony is that Sanchez is prohibited from communicating with any MS members except in the office of his Los Angeles public defender, Amy Jacks. Despite the technical difficulties, Sanchez seemed energized on Sunday by the opportunity to act positively in a context painfully familiar to him, after two years of defending himself in numerous court appearances. On this Memorial Day, he called out the names of Homies Unidos members killed in El Salvador – Hector, Ringo, Bullet, and Smoky, among others – saying, “this is a baton thrown out to us, and it is our duty to pick it up. ”

Twenty years of organizing in Los Angeles have yielded  two models which can be useful for El Salvador, Sanchez said. The first, peace work in the streets and prisons by former gang members like Sanchez, is already adopted and funded in LA as an official “gang prevention and intervention model”, endorsed as well by the LAPD after years of debate. Since the intervention model was developed in part from the experience of Salvadoran gang members it already is “indigenous”, not a foreign model run by government bureaucrats, Peace Corps-style.

Second and equally important, Sanchez and others stressed, is the urgent need for rehabilitation, training and jobs modeled at Homeboy Industries under the inspiration of Fr. Boyle, who has been involved in the Salvadoran community for years. At Homeboy, where the motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job”, young homeboys and homegirls are counseled, trained and directly employed by the agency, the largest of its kind in the US.

Homeboy staff are expected to confer directly with Salvadoran parties, private investors and government agencies interested in the model of such direct employment. They will stress that gang violence reduction is the key to attracting foreign investment to the besieged country, and jobs the key to violence reduction – a virtuous circle in place of a vicious one.

Gang rappers and poets in El Salvador have long described themselves as the fruits of the war – “las fruitas de la guerra.” There now is the possibility of a great reversal, with gang members, their families and all of El Salvador realizing the fruits of peace. #

Hip Hop For Peace

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Happy Holidays

During these holidays we wish you all to enjoy every minute you spend with your families. It has been our experience in our oprganization that our youth need to maintain and improve the relationship with their families to start the healing process of change. We also take a minute to remember the bothers and sisters that are no longer with us or have been separated from their families by deportation or the criminal justice systems.

So on behalf of our staff and board of directors we wish you Happy and Safe Holidays !!!!!!

Please join us in a fundraiser event on

December 10th from 7:30PM to 1:00AM @ LA Founderie

1755  Glendale Blvd  Angeles CA 90026

To RSVP  or for sponsorship opportunities Call:

Claudia Arevalo 213-210-4784

Homies Unidos Screening of “Fruits of War”

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Come and join Homies Unidos Saturday, April 23  6:00PM-11:00PM, as we speak about current struggles of our youth in Los Angeles and El Salvador. “Fruits of War” documents the life of four members of Homies Unidos as they embark on a journey of redemption and social justice and the struggles they face through deportation and criminalization.

Film screening starts at 7:PM sharp. Bring some food and drinks to share.
at Basswerks
5411 W. Adams (West of La Brea)
Los Angeles, CA 90016

If you cant make and would like to donate go to:
www.homiesunidos.org/donate

RSVP @ homiesunidos@homiesunidos.org or call 213-383-7484

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…