By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The network’s foray into the Latino world comes at a critical moment as Nielsen Media Research, provider of the influential viewer-monitoring system used to formulate advertising rates, prepares to factor Spanish-language programs into the ratings mix. But don’t expect Latinos to jump to ABC just because it is in Spanish, said the Freedom Forum’s Felix Gutierrez. “The attraction is you are getting the Anglo news in Spanish, but I don’t forecast Latinos will switch to ABC simply because of that,” he says. Memo to ABC: It’s the content, stupid.
Homies Unidos Persecution Continues
You may remember Sanchez, the director of Homies Unidos, a binational group working to broker a peace between rival gangs here and in El Salvador. Sanchez’s arrest in January by a cop from the Rampart Division’s now infamous CRASH anti-gang unit, no fan of Homies, raised cries of illegal harassment, in part because the officer, in apparent violation of a city directive, handed Sanchez over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The LAPD failed to come up with any good reason for arresting Sanchez, or for passing him along to the feds. But that didn’t stop DOJ, which went after him on two fronts: The INS slammed Sanchez into a federal detention center and prepared to deport him. And the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles prepared to charge him with re-entering the U.S. illegally.
After staffers from state Senator Tom Hayden’s office and others cautioned DOJ that it was being used by cops accused of harassing Sanchez because of his work with Homies, however, the U.S. Attorney dropped its criminal case, citing Sanchez’s peace work. Undaunted by either the messy arrest or murky legal history, the INS soldiered on, arguing that Sanchez should be held and deported because of a 1990 conviction for grand theft auto.
That point became moot when Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler late last month vacated the theft conviction, ruling that Sanchez had not been properly advised that pleading guilty would subject him to the more serious federal re-entry charge. The motion to throw the conviction out was argued by attorney Mark Geragos, who also successfully defended Whitewater figure Susan McDougal against embezzlement charges.
INS was forced to release Sanchez but insisted it wasn’t about to abandon its deportation action.
Sanchez is due in November in immigration court, where he will argue that his forced return to El Salvador would be tantamount to a death sentence. His claim is supported by Senator Hayden, San Salvador’s chief of police and various activists, who point to the murders of three other Homies Unidos members by death-squad groups in El Salvador as proof that Sanchez’s life is in danger. But the INS has been busy lining up witnesses to counter such testimony, says his lawyer, Alan Dimante.
In the meantime, Sanchez is back at work trying to convince former gang members that getting out and staying clean pays off. As for his most recent odyssey through the court system, Sanchez remains curiously optimistic, saying he hopes his case will finally begin to bring a reality check to the debate about crime, gangs and life on the streets of L.A.
“Perhaps people will listen to what is really going on in the neighborhoods,” says Sanchez. “Perhaps this and the Rampart scandal will give us some credibility and show that LAPD has a lot of work to do.”