By Breanna Chico
If you’ve been keeping up with local news, you’ve probably noticed the recent headlines claiming “Narco Wars” have taken over the eastern valley thanks to illegal marijuana growing operations. After a record breaking bust of the illegal grows executed by LASD on June 8th, which nabbed $380 million dollars worth of product and infrastructure in Lake LA, Congressman Mike Garcia did not hesitate to politicize the moment: “To our president and to our vice president, this is what happens when you don’t secure the border,” he said. “We’re not in Sinaloa, Mexico right now. We’re 300 miles away from the border and we have one of the largest illegal drug operations happening in the backyard high desert of Los Angeles (County).”
Garcia’s accusation that the Biden administration has failed to “secure the border” came only days after VP Harris urged Central American migrants and asylum seekers “do not come” to the settler state we know as the USA. Although President Biden promised zero deportations in his first 100 days in office, he hit approximately 26,248 deportations within his first 29 days. In May, immigration advocates spoke out against the administration’s failure to act on behalf of Haitian migrants, saying “It’s like [former Trump adviser] Stephen Miller’s ghost is still pulling the strings of Biden’s immigration policies. And the Biden administration needs to do more to root out Stephen Miller’s ghost”.
The number of people deported under the new administration coupled with VP Harris’s remarks show us that there is a bipartisan consensus on how to deal with asylum and migration.
Garcia’s office claims that an international cartel ring consisting of Mexican, Central American, Armenian and Chinese are running these illegal grow operations. The Marijuana Eradication Team put together by LASD and the Narcotics Bureau has reported armed men standing guard with assault rifles while alleged cartel members steal water from the city’s aquifer as well as shootouts at grow houses and death threats to farmers located near the grows. MET claims they do not have the funding to accurately combat the racketeering, and many Lake LA residents agree that the problem is out of control due to the small number of cops on patrol in the area.
During a town hall held by the Citizens Oversight Commission this past June, many Lake LA residents spoke against the defund movement, saying that conditions would worsen in their neighborhoods if funds were reallocated from LASD’s 3 billion dollar budget in the name of criminal justice reform, echoing García’s stance on the issue. It’s worth noting that defunding would likely not result in fewer sheriff’s on duty but trained mental health and de-escalation professionals working side by side with sheriffs as they respond to 911 calls.
Looking at 93550, the most policed zip code in Palmdale, which also boasts the highest crime rates, most minority dense population and worst health disparities, we see no shortage of crime, both violent and drug related. The high number of sheriffs on patrol are not preventing crime from taking place. In fact there is no data whatsoever that proves more cops equal less crime. Just as borders do not prevent migration and anti-choice laws do not stop abortion, sheriffs don’t prevent crime, they simply respond to it.
The issue of illegal marijuana grows is being used to vilify racialized groups and anyone who looks like they could be foreign born in our community. As we saw with anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate crimes during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know this type of rhetoric can be the match that lights a fire under violent nationalists. García also uses the marijuana issue to justify the continuation of US asylum law violations and preservation of the carceral state.
Mike García may be one of the most outspoken politicians on the far right, but his remarks to the Biden-Harris administration about securing the southern border are completely redundant when you look at all the ways the administration has carried on Trump era immigration policy. From refusing to end immigration deterrence policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, to the footage of Border Patrol officers in Texas whipping Haitians as they attempt to seek asylum, to Vice President Harris blatantly telling Guatemalan refugees that the US will defend its borders if they dare show up at any US-Mexico border, it’s clear that the promises made by Biden and Harris on the campaign trail are broken.
What García is calling for is a complete shutdown of the border, just one step to the right of where we currently are.
A vote for Democrats in the White House was supposed to be a vote against the unrepentant racism and xenophobia the Trump administration represented, yet what we are receiving from this new administration is the same nativist policies and a more diverse group of oppressors. With midterm elections coming soon, many moderate and progressive Democrats are eyeing García’s seat. It would be great to see our current congressman be sent home but we must be wary of his replacement being a more palatable version of García.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, the fight for humane solutions to the manufactured border crisis will go on. Find the organizations in your community or in your state that are working everyday to keep families together and end the human rights violations committed by the US at the border, in detention centers, hospitals, schools and beyond and ask what you can do to support.
Alone we can accomplish a little, together we can accomplish a lot.
About the author: Breanna Chico is the founder of the Antelope Valley Solidarity Collective, @avsolidarity on Instagram.