To the list that includes Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King add one more important historical figure struck down by an assassin’s bullet: Manuel Jamines.
Never heard of him?
Jamines, a day laborer, came to this country illegally from Guatemala and settled in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. Westlake is one of the most densely populated places in the country, with a very poor, heavily illegal, highly transitory Central American population living in a community notorious for illegal vendors, gangs, rampant drug dealing and other crimes.
On Sept. 5, someone flagged down three Los Angeles police officers riding on bicycles. A man, the officers were told, was wielding a knife and threatening passers-by, including a pregnant woman.
The officers confronted Manuel Jamines. They ordered him, in both Spanish and English, to drop the knife. He refused. Instead he raised the switchblade, with its 3-inch serrated blade, and lunged at the officers. He was shot twice and killed.
In the real world, a lawman doesn’t aim at the suspect’s ring finger on the hand holding the weapon. The officers did what they are trained to do when an attack is in progress — shoot to stop. It turned out that Jamines was drunk — and here illegally, a fact that the Los Angeles Times has yet to print. A more justifiable shooting would be hard to find. And for what it’s worth, the three responding officers, including the one who fired the fatal shots, are Latino.
What followed? Two days of riots.
Labeling the shooting an “assassination,” thugs set fires and threw rocks and bottles at police. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck blamed the riots not on the lawbreakers, but on national “anti-immigrant sentiment” that makes Westlake residents feel “disconnected.” “(The) community,” said the chief, “feels disconnected from the city. They feel like they don’t have a voice. I think they feel a lot of pressure because of the anti-immigrant sentiment that runs through a very common conversation in America right now.”
To help them feel connected, the chief held a town hall meeting. Some attendees called him “a murderer.” Protest marches and rallies followed, where the police were called “killers.”
“Advocacy” groups included the Revolutionary Communist Party and something called the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which claimed that five witnesses say the police shot an unarmed man.
None, however, has said so publicly. Fear of deportation? Not likely. The LAPD has long operated under Special Order 40, an LAPD policy that protects illegal aliens against deportation should they report crime.
Even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — a man who once addressed 500,000 “immigrant rights” marchers in Spanish from a City Hall balcony and shouted, “There are no illegal people here today!” — has called the Jamines shooting an apparent justifiable use of lethal force.
In case Jamines’ widow feels “disconnected,” the government of Guatemala has promised to pay for an attorney on the off chance that she sues the LAPD for wrongful death.
This brings us to President Barack Obama’s Kenyan aunt, Zeituni Onyango. Aunt Zeituni has been living in this country illegally since 2000. She lives in public housing and receives disability payments. Twice ordered to depart, most recently in 2004, she refused to leave. After Obama’s election, the same judge who’d earlier ordered her deported reversed the decision. Now, it seems, Kenya is too dangerous for Zeituni, and the judge has granted her political asylum.
Is she, at least, grateful to the system obviously gamed in her favor?
Auntie Z says, “If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen.” As for living in public housing and receiving public assistance, Auntie Z says, “I didn’t take any advantage of the system. The system took advantage of me.” Besides, she says, “I didn’t ask for (welfare assistance); they gave it to me. Ask your system. I didn’t create it or vote for it. Go and ask your system.” If people don’t like it, she says, they can take back the benefits, and she’ll go homeless.
Last year, Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union announced that the real goal of “immigration reform” is the recruitment of new Democratic voters. When Latinos voted in the November 2008 elections, he said, “they voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up. … We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters. Can you imagine if we have even the same ratio, two out of three? If we get 8 million new voters that care about our issues and will be voting, we will create a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”
Meanwhile, a new poll finds that 62 percent of Americans believe U.S. policies encourage illegal immigration. Hard to imagine.