The Corner

Re: Authorities Opt for Counterinsurgency

In response to my post about Salinas, Calif., using counterinsurgency techniques to fight gangs, a reader from there takes issue with my suggestion that importing farmworkers contributed to the problem:


I enjoy you work tremendously, but you are off the mark on the Salinas gang problem. Salinas has been the home of the Nortenos for years, and the Nortenos are not the immigrant gang. They, and in most cases, their parents were born here. The recent spike in violence is partly due to the immigrant gang (Sorenos) taking its shot, but mostly to the efforts of the Nortenos to grow and expand influence. It has also evolved from a violence standpoint, which is the most troubling. In the past you got in by going in the circle. Now, you have to kill someone.

Salinas recently hired an excellent new chief who immediately recommended a Broken Windows model to address the problem, which after 50 years is the one thing they haven’t tried. Going after the immigrants won’t do the trick because they aren’t the problem.

I take his word for it that the Nortenos are a native-born gang. But two points: First, the Surenos are a heavily immigrant gang (we mention them a couple times in our gang study), so current immigration policy obviously has some relevance. And second, the fact that the Nortenos in Salinas are native-born doesn’t mean it’s not a manifestation of bad immigration policy. When you import a Third World peasantry to pick the vegetables in a post-industrial, knowledge-based economy with a well-developed welfare state and multicultural sensibility, you’re asking for trouble. My colleague David North recently surveyed the research on this, and we’re just not in 1909 any more — the native-born descendants of more recent immigrants, especially from Latin America, show very troubling signs, not just flat earnings and education and home ownership, but huge increases in criminality and illegitimacy. We are importing (have already imported, to a large degree) another underclass, just like Britain and France and Germany did with Pakistanis, Algerians, and Turks. We may actually have a chance at getting a handle on our immigrant-origin underclass problem because there’s less cultural distance between Latin immigrants and Americans, but it’s the same problem.

And another reader noted, with regard to the fact that, as the article I linked to put it, “Military software developed to track terrorists is also being used to map crimes and link suspects”:

Full circle. That software used in Iraq was developed by reservist cops using techniques they learned on their police forces.