Returning to KJLH 102.3 FM-- with Dominique Di Prima

I'm back on KJLH 102.3 FM this week (April 21-25). It's always a pleasure. I'll be honorary co-host with Dominique Di Prima on the station's Front Page live talk show. Please listen in if you're in the LA area. It's early—4:30 AM to 6 AM. But the topics are timely and the callers lively.

Today on the air we had an old friend, Marie Deary from Shore Books & Art Gallery in Long Beach. She is also an expert on personal and business finances. Today she talked about credit reports, how they work and how to obtain a higher credit rating. This rating is how you can save money on interest rates when financing a home, car, or obtaining a loan. Marie says that in the long run keeping track of your credit report on an annual basis, and making sure you have a personal handle on what appears there, is how you can save money and get rid of a few headaches. She also has workshops on the topic on a regular basis. Go to to find out more.

We also talked by phone with Latricia Majors, mother of 16-year-old Pleajhai Mervin who a year ago reportedly had her wrist broken by a security guard at Pete Knight High School in Palmdale, CA. The security guard's actions were videtaped (apparently available on However, he has only been moved from his job. Pleajhai, on the hand, is facing criminal charges in juvenile court, although she's been a good student, never been in trouble with the law, and clearly the victim. Ms. Majors called on listeners to pray for her daughter so that she is not punished for doing nothing wrong. Justice can only happen when the community is galvanized, organized, and active.

Today Ms. Di Prima also asked me about LA City's Special Order 40, which prohibits police officers from asking immigrants if they have authorization to be in this country—unless (and this is what confuses people) they're suspected of committing a crime. SO40 was meant to stop the practice of doing the federal government's job. In local communities, many undocumented immigrants don't report crimes or become active in crime abatement due to fears of deportation. They thus become prey to criminals and gangs, which have robbed and attacked immigrants for years. SO40 allows immigrants to step up and help in real criminal offenses that if not addressed could hurt others.

I think it's a good law and should not be removed or amended (unless to make it fairer or stronger).

Again, police, if they have cause, can ask for these documents anytime. When someone is arrested and fails to show legal papers, police can report them. This is different than stopping people solely to turn them over to US immigration authorities.

The issue flared up recently when a suspected undocumented gang member was arrested for the shooting murder of 17-year-old African American Jamiel Stewart, Jr, a high school football player. This tragedy strikes at all our communities; it hurts us all, regardless of whether the shooter was undocumented or not. I understand many Latinos took part in Jamiel's memorial. This is still a tragedy that we must not forget.

However, should this now mean we need to rescind or amend Special Order 40? Not in my view. Laws already exist to report and eventually deport anyone convicted of crimes in the US. In fact, since 1996, when immigration law was changed to address undocumented criminals, some 700,000 people have been deported—most of them to Mexico, with significant numbers to Central America, Cambodia, Belize and other countries.

One problem is that a large number of these deportees were raised in the US, often only speaking English or very bad Spanish, and sent to countries without jobs, housing or educational options. Some of these had joined LA-based gangs, even learning sophisticated criminal activities in California's prisons. Now countries like El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras have become violent gang-ridden countries. When you send 700,000 convicted people outside the country, you're bound to contribute major problems, including changing whole cultures.

Yes, the intensifying issues between African American and Latinos need to be dealt with seriously. But I implore all of us to remember history (when Blacks & Browns united), our common social/political/economic interests, and even what our adversaries are doing (they continue to contribute to and benefit from African Americans and Latinos going at each other's throats).

Yes I'm also aware there is much tension in the streets between Black and Brown gangs. But much of this is predicated on a race-based prison system that pervades our communities. Remember we have 175,000 state prisoners; they will most likely become a negative influence unless we provide adequate rehabilitation, training, and treatment to prisoners, as well as re-entry programs to re-integrate them into our communities. This is simply not happening, hurting all poor communities. I contend most of the race-based prison/street incidents are linked to the system's long-time “divide and conquer” strategies.

For example, Mexican prisoners in California are currently locked down after two Mexicans about a month ago allegedly stabbed four guards in Tehachapi State Prison (the prison system did this in case it was not a systemwide attack--similar incidents in other prisons involving Mexicans were also reported). But how are all Mexicans involved? In many prisons, if a white guy gets into a beef in a yard, all the whites in that yard are locked down; same with Blacks. The prison system was also known to set up "gladiator schools" where they pitted one race against another. Yes, many prisoners buy into this, and this is a shame. But it's rooted in the system's race-based policies.

Blacks are being attacked (mostly by racist whites, not Latinos), but so are undocumented immigrants (again mostly by white racists and Minutemen-type organizations). That's not to say that now white people should be targeted. They are not a monolith and many whites are willing to work with the rest of us for social and equitable changes for everyone. We should not lose sight of the institutional racism that forces both Black and Brown into the worse schools, worse housing, and worse jobs.

I don't condone anyone, Latinos included, who would attack or kill someone simply because of their race. In the face of this, we need to remember our intertwined destinies and not let anything like this tear us apart. For justice, we've gone too far to stop now. I hope this conversation continues throughout the week – I'm willing to hear all sides on this issue.


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