Report From Occupied America: The Fall Of Salinas
December 03, 2004, 04:00 AM
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Salinas is lost.

Located in California's Central Coastal Valley and known as the Salad Bowl to the World, Salinas is the state's first casualty of the financial and cultural consequences of illegal immigration.

Salinas—on a smaller scale but even more dramatically than Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco— has been overwhelmed. The poor and (occasional) farm workers from Central America and Mexico came to Salinas in huge numbers in recent decades. But this time, they never went home.

Salinas—birthplace of American novelist John Steinbeck and the town that hosts wranglers from across the country every summer at the 100-year-old California Rodeo—has been transformed into a place I, a native-born Californian, no longer recognize.

Here is a snapshot of Salinas today:

  • According to Census 2000, 70% of Salinas' 150,000 residents are Hispanic.

  • Between 1990 and 2000, the total Salinas population increased 40%. During the same period, the share of foreign born living in Salinas increased from 26% to 35%


  • Salinas' residents older than 25 who are without a high-school diploma rose to 44% in 2000.

  • Approximately 65% of students in the Salinas K-12 system are Hispanic "English Language Learners"—Edspeak for kids who can't speak our national language.


  • The average per capita income in Salinas is $14, 495, up 26% from 1990.

  • Only 13% of Salinas' workers are employed in the agriculture industry.

(California: Salinas, Watsonville

Against this backdrop, Salinas has one of the nation's most chilling crime rate profiles (Salinas CA Crime Statistics (2002 - New Crime Data). Based on 2002 Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics, Salinas is above the national average in the following:

CRIME TIMES GREATER THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE
Murder 2.3 X
Forcible Rape 1.25 X
Robberies 1.75X
Aggravated Assault 1.5X
Burglaries (At National Average)
Larceny/Petty Theft 1.25X
Vehicle Theft 1.4X

(Also, according to the FBI, 58 cases of arson were reported in Salinas in 2002. But no national comparisons can be made because of incomplete data.)

During the last ten years, the annual number of homicides in Salinas tripled. (Three-quarters of these were gang related.) The Salinas Police Department identified 14 street gangs with more than 400 certified and active gang members. Significantly, 90 percent of the gun-related violent offenses that occurred in the community involved perpetrators under the age of 25 years. Of the most recent nineteen homicides, seventeen were gang-related. The majority of the victims were under 20.

Here in its entirety is the Salinas Police Department's most wanted list:

Juan Zavala Nunez, Cesar Campa Avila, Jose Francisco Flores, Felix Merendon, Arsenio "Archie" Leyva and Ricardo Israel Herrera.

A piece of unsolicited advice for travelers: If you are ever in Salinas, leave before sundown.

I wrote about Salinas' woes earlier this year. In July, my column titled The Littlest Victims Of The Immigration Disaster recounted the tragic incident of an infant found abandoned in a Salinas lettuce field by a young migrant worker.

And in a November 21st blog item, "Hear No Illegals See No Illegals Alive and Well at SF Chronicle," I wrote about the municipal funding crisis that forced the closure of all three Salinas libraries.

Chronicle reporter Maria Alicia Gaura blamed Salinas residents for failing to support a November tax measure. 

But, realistically, who would expect a mostly poor and non-English speaking population to vote for higher taxes to keep the library open?

One analyst said that some voters decided, "They were just too poor to pay more taxes."

Library closings and similar cutbacks are the dreaded Catch-22s that inevitably consume communities top-heavy with illegal aliens.

Which will it be—medical services for illegal aliens or libraries for legal residents? So far, services to illegal aliens wins out.

This is a tough column for me, a third-generation Californian, to write.

What's happening in Salinas is occurring to a lesser extent throughout our state…and in some cases not dramatically less.

The moral in today's cautionary tale is this: although Salinas is gone, your community can still be saved.

The momentum for sanity in immigration has continued to build throughout 2004.

To keep the ball rolling, think of the mid-term 2006 Congressional elections as already in progress.

And best of all, it may be that—at long last—immigration reform will be the number one domestic issue in the 2008 presidential election.

At least one prominent presidential candidate is speaking out already.

It's not who you expect.

In a November 2004 interview with Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren, [Sen. Hillary Clinton Goes 'On the Record', November 18, 2004] none other than Hillary Clinton (!) urged tighter border controls.

Clinton told Van Susteren,

"I don't think that we have protected our borders or our ports or provided our first responders with the resources they need, so we can do more and we can do better. There's technology now available. There are some advanced radar systems. There are biometric and other kinds of identification systems that we've been very slow to deploy and unwilling to spend money on."

Indeed, Clinton is on record against illegal immigration at least dating back to 2003, when she was a guest on WABC Radio with host John Gambling.

Said Clinton:

"I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants…. People have to stop employing illegal immigrants. I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx; you're going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work."

Naturally, Clinton's remarks should be taken with a grain of salt.

But her comments are nevertheless important. If nothing else they show that astute politicians are aware of growing public outrage at our immigration disaster.

And perhaps (look at Bill Clinton's welfare reform) they just may be ready to do something about it.

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.