Murder, Imported
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On January 4 2004, the front page story of The Record (Stockton, CA.) was titled "Slayings Rise in 2003: No Demographic Untouched in San Joaquin Homicide Total."

Murders in 2003 totaled 65, up from 59 in 2002.

But what caught my eye was the list of 65 dead and the 40 captured suspects. It represented an excellent example of multiculturalism in the real world: 60 legal and illegal immigrants, children of immigrants and refugees were among the 105 names. [ note: A San Joaquin Hispanic group has also noticed this phenomenon, although they concentrate on the large number of Hispanic victims, rather than criminals. (Latinos: 32.9 de SJ, 45% de homicidios El Concilio Para Los Hispanohablantes)]

Here, in chronological order, are some of the murders in San Joaquin County in 2003.

The next time you're encouraged to celebrate diversity, remember this:

  • My The Pham, 20, shot on January 4th at a party. Pham had been arrested in 2002 on gun and drug possession charges.

  • Christina Ramirez, 18, stabbed at a Valentine's Day dance by a 15-year old Manteca girl. Ramirez, a documented gang member, had previously been charged with dumping her newborn baby in a restroom at Harrah's Lake Tahoe in 2002.

  • Katherine Phan, 18-month-old, beheaded by her father in June while he sang karaoke with her.

  • Angel Cruz-Savante, 53, found dead wrapped in Christmas sheets in August. Cruz-Savante had been arrested in 1998 for illegally entering the U.S.

  • Bounthavy Onethavong, 29, shot in the head during a drive-by in September. Charged are three Cambodian gang members, Mao Hin, 19, Rattanak Kak, 16, and Sarun Chun, 16.

  • Alfonso Martinez, 20, shot in October by the above-mentioned Hin and Kak.

  • Thai Yang, 15, murdered by gang member Khorn "Johnnie" So.

Reading the list took me back to the 1990s when I taught English as a Second Language to Southeast Asian refugees in Stockton.

Many of my students were good people struggling enormously to get by in America.

But many of their children were immediately drawn into lives of crime and violence.

Such was the case with Soknoeum Nem, son of my Cambodian student Chetoeum Nem.

Soknoeum, in his early 20s, had a long rap sheet. A member of the notorious Asian Street Walker Gang , Nem had done prison time for auto theft and burglary.

Nem's fellow gang-member and good friend, Mesa Kasem, was sleaze, too.  Kasem had been charged in 1994 with shooting a woman and firing pistol shots into an occupied dwelling. For those crimes, Kasem served one year of a three-year sentence in California Youth Authority.

After their release in 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service detained both men. As convicted felons, they were eligible for deportation. But when efforts to return Nem and Kasem to their native Cambodia failed, the I.N.S. proclaimed them "rehabilitated" and released them.

As it turned out, Nem and Kasem were a long way from rehabilitated.

Kasem promptly robbed a Stockton woman in her home and threatened to kill her six-month old baby.

And in 2000, Kasem teamed up with his old pal Nem as the two gangsters—then working for a furniture delivery company—planned a home invasion robbery at the Alamo, CA. residence of Dr. Kim Fang.

Here's what happened when Nem and Kasem got to the Fang's: Winnie Fang opened the door and was shot in the chest by Kasem. She survived but her husband and Kasem were killed as they exchanged gunfire. Nem and nanny Melee Jung were both wounded. The two children fled to a neighbor's house to call the police.

Needless to say, when the details of Nem and Kasem's violent history came out, hand-wringing was everywhere. Virginia Kice, [Send her email] then a spokeswoman for the INS's western region, told the San Francisco Chronicle that

"We have tried to strike a balance to ensure we don't hold people indefinitely as long as they don't pose a risk. When you are dealing with people, it is an inexact science—it is impossible to predict what an individual will or won't do."

Bunk. Insurance companies make these predictions all the time. That's what they have actuaries for.

And what more did Nem and Kasem have to do to get the INS' attention?

Continued INS spokeswoman Kice:

"He had served his sentence, paid his debt to society. Obviously some people are going to say, 'Why did they let this guy out?' This is a case where we had not only an exhaustive interview but we felt this individual was a good candidate for release."

How wrong can you be?

But the true problem lies not simply the staggering stupidity of freeing hardened criminals, but also in our crippled immigration laws.

According to Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detention and removal officers must secure a travel document for every alien before deportation. They need to be able to show that the alien's native country will let him back in.

The U.S. wanted to deport two murdering dirt bags to Cambodia.

But that godforsaken country said no dice.

Cambodia called the shots!

And as a consequence Dr. Fong ended up dead, his wife is a widow and his children are fatherless.

Nem was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Which means that, for years to come, taxpayers will foot the bill—an expense that could have been avoided.

A happy footnote to the Nem/Kasem saga is that, effective in March 2002, Cambodia finally caved in to heavy pressure from the U.S. and accepted the first six of 1,400 felons scheduled to return over the next several years.

The U.S. resolve came too late to save the Fong family. But it shows what influence the federal government can wield when its sets its mind to righting a wrong.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

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