On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mike García (R-CA) and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a frank and open conversation over some of the issues that are becoming critical in local and federal politics. During the hour-long panel, the congressman and the sheriff talked about immigration, homelessness, Defund the Police, and the lack of success of California policies against crime.
The Defund the Police movement is both ineffective and dangerous: Villanueva
The movement to “Defund the Police” picked up steam in liberal and progressive elites during the 2020 nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd. Many Democratic-run cities followed through, substantially cutting the financing of police departments. However, the move backfired spectacularly, as crime rose nationally in 2020 and many of those same cities reversed their decision.
Sheriff Villanueva painted a clear picture of the failure of the Defund the Police movement, “results speak for themselves, we saw a major increase in violent crime in every city that defunded the police.” The sheriff lambasted politicians for this decision, saying that “politicians bought into the BLM narrative by demonizing defunding law enforcement thinking on their reelection.” Representative García said that, despite its evident failure, people are still talking about the Defund of the movement at the Federal level, “I sit on the appropriations committee, in the Justice and Commerce subcommittee where these things are discussed, and I’ve seen that we still are having conversations (…) about the Defund the Police movement.”
Villanueva also criticized the current policy direction of LA, saying they are the only ones who are still pushing to defund the police, “they want to get rid of police and change them with ‘ambassadors’. They already eliminated school police in the LA Unified School District and put on ‘climate coaches’” He also highlighted how his department is atrociously underfunded and understaffed, as they have received budget cuts of more than $140 million in funding each year and are only working with 71% of its patrol personnel, while his office’s hiring abilities were frozen.
California’s failed policy towards homeless people
Both public officials derided the public policy approach towards the growing homeless population in California, which currently has the highest homeless population in the country. Rep. García pointed out judges can’t take homeless people with drug paraphernalia to mental health institutions, meaning they are back on the streets in a matter of hours. Villanueva hammered out the point even further, showing images of dozens of homeless people in tents in the streets of Sacramento.
The sheriff also pointed out there are financial interests behind the ongoing homeless crisis in California, saying there are non-profit organizations that receive $62,000 per tent for their services. Villanueva said there are people who are actually making a living out of this crisis, noting there are directives of non-profits taking 6-figures wages, and thus have no real incentives to solve the issue.
Rep. García said there is no real intent from public officials to solve the issue, for him “the government of the state and the city is actually paying for their addictions and keeping them on the streets” while noting that in Los Angeles “you can get fined for having your dog defecate on the street, but if you, a human being, do it, nothing happens at all.”
When asked by El American about the relationship between illegal immigration and homelessness, Villanueva said “Undocumented immigrants are only 2% of the homeless population; most illegal immigrants come to work and send money home and find a way to put a roof over their heads.”
California’s policies against crime are an utter failure
Villanueva and García also lambasted the lack of law enforcement in California. The LA Sheriff was very explicit in his criticism, “what you don’t prosecute, you legalize. LA county has legalized theft through Proposition 47. Shoplifting was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor, and they’re not even prosecuting the misdemeanors.” He also said that George Gascon, the LA County District Attorney, has effectively “legalized prostitution, which will of course increase human trafficking in the county. He’s not even prosecuting child molesters that move into areas they’re banned from.”
Mike García also noted that there is little trust that the LA County DA would prosecute felonies, “there were three gang members that killed an LAPD officer [Fernando Arroyo] and it was raised to a federal level because we didn’t trust our own DA to prosecute the case.” Villanueva added that “the deputies told us that George Gascon would only go for simple homicide and leave all enhancements that might raise it to death penalty aside.”
The lack of political will to enforce laws also translates to marijuana policy; Rep. García pointed out that “there’s no felony-level charge for illegal marijuana grows, you can grow tens of tons or ten plants and it will be a misdemeanor in all cases.” For García this is a larger issue than marijuana, “they have indentured servants, they’re stealing water, power, they’re murdering, stealing land, and also wildlife is dying due to pesticides. They’re even hurting the legal marijuana business because they basically have no labor costs.”
When answering a question to El American at a press conference after the panel, Rep. García said “we have a huge problem with illegal marijuana grows and its relation with illegal immigration; they are indentured servants living in horrible conditions and threatened by the cartels.”