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 father (my wife brother) immigrated to the U.S., he in turn could petition for wife and 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 -- and he could have come legally.

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.

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, 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 the council ordered the LAPD to do 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.

I do blame politicians like yourself and the rest of the council for not doing more to enforce existing laws with a "no tolerance" policy like Burbank has. 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 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."

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 or the rest of the council 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


To date, this letter which was copied to the entire council in 2000 and every  year since, no council member ever replied.