June 17, 2000

Dear Councilwoman Miscikowski:

I am going to let you in on a confidential matter.

When my wife and I visited her family in Mexico last January, four of her siblings and three of their children ranging in ages from 8 to 16, produced their birth certificates and asked that we petition for their legal immigration to the U.S. Since my wife is a U.S. citizen, she can petition for her siblings and her parents, but not her siblings' children. The children were very disappointed, I told them that it would take many years, but once their parents (my wife's siblings) immigrated to the U.S., they in turn could petition for their children. This is known as family reunification. Immigration reformers call this "chain immigration."

A month ago, my wife received a telephone call from her brother, the oldest of ten siblings. My wife was shocked to find that he was in Oxnard, California. Her brother has joined the ranks among illegal aliens by entering the U.S. for a job which would allow him to send money home in support of his family.

On May 6, My wife, her sister (legally visiting from Mexico), and I went to visit her brother at an Oxnard park were he is an ice cream vendor. His story angered me against our politicians like yourself and our local law enforcement and those who excuse illegal immigration in the name of compassion. Why should immigrants wait to come legally when you and other politicians virtually send an invitation to them by ignoring the enforcement of our quality-of-life laws like illegal street vending.

About two months ago, my wife's brother was approached by a "friend" in Mexico who turned out to be a recruiter for a smuggling ring. He told her brother that he would recommend him for a job in California. The recruiter gave her brother the "milk and honey" sale's pitch and told him that all expenses including air fare, coyote service, and housing, would be taken care of by his "friends" in Oxnard. He further told him, in so many words, that in Oxnard (like L.A.), it is legal to be illegal. In return, her brother would pay the friend back by having payments deducted from his pay. Part of the pitch was that her brother did not have to fear deportation because the immigration laws are not enforced (and the recruiter is right!). It sounded so attractive to her brother, and being impatient, he decided he didn't want to wait to come legally and "signed up."

Her brother illegally sells ice cream from a push cart -- one sees these type of vendors on Van Nuys Blvd and other areas of Los Angeles. I'm told that one of the reasons that the police look the other way is because the ice cream companies pay $200 a year for a county health department certificate for each cart -- but selling on the city sidewalks is not legal regardless of the county obtained health license.

Her brother lives in Oxnard in a three bedroom house with 21 roommates, for which each must pay $60.00/month rent, who are all part of the ice cream team. He works a 12 hour day, six days a week, and is told when he can leave and when he must return. He is being watched -- and if he did leave his job without fulfilling his obligation, harm could come to him or members of my wife's family in Mexico.

Her poor brother, he can only earn enough to make the payments of his obligation with nothing left over to send home to his family. In fact, he is earning less than he was in his job that he left in Mexico.

Her brother cannot leave his job until his debt is paid off. He is virtually an indentured servant. The local and county police (including Los Angeles) are totally ignorant of what's going on and don't want to know. Their mantra is "it's an INS problem (but indentured servitude is actually a local police problem).

My wife's brother is living the scenario of thousands of Mexicans who want a "better life."

The truth is that not only do these indentured vendors not pay taxes, but their employers, who run cash businesses, get away with not paying their fair share either.

My wife's brother doesn't want to sponge off of anyone and says he will continue to work off his debt, but my wife and I have decided to buy his freedom (he still owes over $700).

You see, the ice cream companies (and other companies) deal with the smugglers with little risk to themselves -- they just say that they pay someone to get workers and they DON'T make it their business to know where the workers come from. So the vendors we see with ice cream carts in Van Nuys, are probably indentured. It would be hard to bust the well organized smuggling rings (they now rank up there with drug smuggling in terms of profit), but if LAPD would be doing its job, the smugglers would have to find other work  -- or maybe go to another city, that like L.A., also doesn't enforce its laws.

Ms. Miscikowski, I want you to know that I don't blame illegals one bit for seeking a "better life." But I do blame politicians like yourself and local police departments like the LAPD for not doing more to enforce existing laws with a "no tolerance" policy like Burbank does. If you did, the illegals wouldn't be attracted to a city where they know that politicians and police don't do their jobs thoroughly -- virtually putting out the welcome mat. The city council's and LAPD's complacency on this matter and other "quality of life" issues is, in my opinion, just one little thing that grows into bigger things like the LAPD's corruption scandal. As LAPD's Captain Wemmer once said, "if a single pane isn't replaced, soon the rest will be broken." Those were nice words. Too bad LAPD can't heed them.

The mini task force headed by Sergeant Rob Lerner is working pretty good to control illegal vendors that station themselves in one place, but there is little effect on the growing number of roaming vendors like the ones that come up my street daily. Observing the vendors impunity, independent and small illegal vending operations also take to the streets. There is no way that I know of to halt roaming vendors without active policing by all officers -- not just task forces. I know the old story about not having resources. Think about this: if LAPD had not been so complacent with NOT enforcing "quality of life" laws for all these years, it wouldn't have gotten to the basket case it is now. And the only way I know of fixing a basket case, is nipping it in the bud.

Having already passionately complained to you in a town hall meeting about illegal street vending, I know it is too much to expect that you would do something to solve this problem. Perhaps now that you know this is not a simple problem caused by some poor immigrants who just want to make a meager living, but rather a problem of "Indentured Servitude," you will take this problem seriously.

Hal Netkin
POB 3465
Van Nuys, CA 91407


UPDATE: January 11, 2003

The above mini task force slowly dissappeard until there was no trace of it six months after it was implimented by Sergeant Lerner.

To date Councilwoman Miscikowski never replied to this letter. Today, she is on a TNI kick (targeted neighborhood initiative) to beautify Van Nuys, while ignoring the ugliness of illegal street vending.