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RICO Savvy

Ever since a New Hampshire judge struck down local police chiefs' attempts to use the state's criminal trespass statutes on illegal aliens, I've been wondering about other tactics local officials can use to pick up the slack left by the do-nothing federal government. And thanks to a most unlikely source -- National Public Radio -- I think I've found one.

In Idaho, Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez has a burr under his saddle over illegal immigration. He's decided to go after the demand side of the economic equation -- the companies that hire them. And he's been using the RICO -- Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations -- statute, originally intended to go after organized crime, to drive down the profits in hiring illegal aliens.

Vasquez is being labelled a traitor to his heritage -- he's the grandson of legal Mexican immigrants, born in Texas. But he says he's an American first. A Korean War veteran who lost part of one leg and the use of one hand, he speaks Spanish fluently -- but refuses to conduct interviews in Spanish. His attitude seems to be that when he's acting as an American elected official, he will speak only in English.

It's not the first time Vasquez has taken on the illegal immigration issue. Last year he sent a bill to the Mexican government for $2 million dollars for services rendered to illegal Mexican immigrants. And he also unsuccessfully petitioned Idaho's governor to declare his county a disaster area, based on an "imminent invasion" from Mexico.

Vasquez has a lot -- a LOT -- of local support. Many of Idaho's construction companies have been hurt, badly, by having to compete with rivals who use cheap illegal labor. Those that play by the rules simply can't work as cheaply.

Vasquez recently announced he's running for Idaho's single seat in Congress, and some say he's using this to garner publicity and support.

Me, I don't care. He's saying and doing the right thing, and that is good enough for me.

(More coverage here)


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Comments (19)

Governor Bill Richardson (D... (Below threshold)

Governor Bill Richardson (D, NM) is finally taking matters into his own hands, too.

Governor Bill Richardson Declares State of Emergency Along New Mexico Border With Mexico
August 12, 2005

Action like this will probably get him reelected if he runs for governor again; likewise, his already elevated stature in the Democratic party will rise a bit more and make him a much better candidate for the Presidency. Don't think that Richardson's Democratic colleagues haven't thought about this since it is one area where the current administration has failed miserably.

Richardson hasn't used RICO but I'm guessing just about every politician is trying to figure out how to stop this illegal alien invasion without getting the dreaded xenophobe tag and without upsetting business interests heavily dependent on undervalued labor.

Oh, the hypocrisy!... (Below threshold)

Oh, the hypocrisy!

Because I'm a lawyer, I probably attract more flames around here than my words earn. As a lawyer, I am blamed for every frivolous lawsuit, for every frivolous defense, for judges stretching laws farther than they were meant to extend, for the complexity of law as a discipline, for the incoherence of legislative acts, and more. And, Jay Tea loves to find new reasons to despise lawyers on a nearly daily basis.

Now Jay is trumpeting a blatant and frivolous abuse of the RICO statutes. Before I go on, some caveats: I have not read the Complaint or heard any arguments, so I can only guess at the "facts" used to support the RICO causes of action. Also, it has been nearly 10 years since I actively handled RICO cases, so the topic is not fresh on my mind. But my gut reaction is that this is a costly and wasteful abuse of taxpayer money and the overly congested Federal court system, and it amounts to severe extortion of the defendant companies.

Frivolous RICO cases are far too common, and they can be extremely expensive to defend. They are also expensive to prosecute. I am curious to know whether there is any reasonable justification for filing the suits. At this point, I suspect not. Rather, I suspect this is precisely the type of case that leads rational people to despise lawyers.

This Vasquez sounds like a kook. Don't get me wrong; I am all for stringent immigration policies and enforcement. But Vasquez sounds like a desperate man using desperate measures. It will be interesting to see whether he acheives his political aspirations, or whether he's written off as an unrealistic wildman. I doubt he's attracting much respect.

I blame the feds for lack of enforcement. We have appropriate laws in place to deal with illegal employment of illegals. The laws are fine, and I've seen them in action many times when restaurants have been raided before my very eyes. But we need to get those INS vans out to the worksites and checking the documentation. It's a simple and effective process, and the penalties for employing illegals are very steep. Employers used to fear INS more than a donut fears Michael Moore. We need enforcement, plain and simple.

The point of this rambling comment is that conservative blogs employ a double-standard against the legal system. The same abuses that are blamed for the decline of western civilization, are actually trumpeted when they run in favor of a conservative agenda. What gives?

Mark : "But Vasquez ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Mark :
"But Vasquez sounds like a desperate man using desperate measures." I agree. And why is the situation so desperate?
"I blame the feds for lack of enforcement."
Exactly. That's why we are so desperate.

".. I suspect this is precisely the type of case that leads rational people to despise lawyers."
Actually, this is one of the few cases that makes me glad there are lawyers doing this type of thing. I guess it's just depends on whose ox is being gored.

Anonymous, I have another p... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Anonymous, I have another posting mentioning that one slated to publish itself later today...

And Mark, you always seem to be kvetching about "bad" solutions to the problem, but the only thing I recall you ever doing is pointing out one of the biggest causes of the problem, never any type of solutions. I agree with you that getting the federal government off its ass and DOING THINGS is the ideal, simply repeating that over and over ain't doing squat, while the problem keeps getting worse and worse.

Here's a little dose of the real world: when you have a crisis, FIRST you fix it, THEN you figure out how to keep it from happening again, THEN you fix blame. You're fixated on step 3; I want something to take care of step 1. And if that gets you miffed, sorry.

These are people who have tried and tried to get the feds to act (Chief Chamberlain once had a busload of illegals, and was ORDERED by INS (or ICE, their successor) to let them go. Then and only then did he go looking for an alternative, and found the "criminal trespass" statute.


Les is right. The fact tha... (Below threshold)

Les is right. The fact that local law enforcement has to go to such extremes to stop illegal actions is what is so dismal. I don't know anything about RICO, furthermore I don't care. That's a lawyer's work. What I do care about is the sheer desperation behind these actions. Sure there are laws in place. But there are too many organizations which effectively thwart them and discourage action. The ACLU for one.

Mark, you could have gotten your point across without the opening "Oh, the hypocrisy!" It's more of an invitation to ignore your words than to take you seriously. It immediately puts others on the defense rather than garnering support for your opinions. You had valid points. They should have been able to stand on their own.

No Jay, I'm not fixated on ... (Below threshold)

No Jay, I'm not fixated on step three. In fact, blame is irrelevant to solving the problem, by and large.

My point is this: We have an appropriate system in place to handle the problem. We need to get the people in charge to implement that system. I think that is the solution. No, I don't have any suggestions for bringing this about, except for constant pressure on the powers that be.

It is a shame that people feel forced to resort to misuses of trespass laws or RICO. These misuses are doomed to failure and, for the sake of integrity of the legal system, I am glad they do. The type of desperate reasoning necessary to apply RICO or state laws is the same type of desperate reasoning that led to Roe v. Wade and other bad decisions. We cannot sacrifice the remaining integrity of our already beleaugered system in order to slap a quick bandaid on our borders.

I applaud the initiative of the creative people who are trying to plug the borders, and the extraordinary measures they take speak volumes of the desperate need for change. That is very newsworthy in my opinion, and I support the effort in principle. I wish the administration would wake up and pay attention.

Unfortunately, however, the efforts brought to our attention by Jay are tantamount to cutting off our noses to spite our face. Yes, the problem needs to be fixed ASAP. But it needs to be fixed in a way that does not cause more harm than good. Bastardizing otherwise useful laws and undermining the integrity of our legal system is not the way to go about it.

My "hypocrisy" reference was meant to be a gentle, slightly tongue-in-cheek, slap at Jay and some of his followers who recently condemned any creative use or expansion of the legal system for unintended purposes. It is intellectually dishonest to condemn judicial expansions of civil rights or defamation lawsuits by prisoners, yet applaud the misuse of laws by local officials and fault sound judges for refusing to bastardize the system.

For the sake of Jay's credibility, the means need to be examined before supporting an outright "ends justify means" stance. For Jay to support using means he's already condemned in similar, but pro-liberal, contexts, he erodes his own credibility and exposes himself to charges of hypocrisy.

We're on the same side here. I merely suggest avoiding the inherently contradictory positions I've been reading lately.

Mark you realize that they'... (Below threshold)

Mark you realize that they're doing that ONLY because they have to do SOMETHING. Local law enforcement officials can't do squat if the federal laws are not being enforced, so they resort to desperate measures.

Sounds to me like Vasquez i... (Below threshold)

Sounds to me like Vasquez is just following in the footsteps of the gun control crowd. When they couldn't get their gun ban legislation passed, they tried to use meritless lawsuits (none of dozens have yet succeeded) against the gun manufacturers.

The feds won't do anything substantial about illegal aliens, so Vasquez is trying to make hiring them unprofitable.

Mark said "[RICO cases] can be extremely expensive to defend." That's the point, just like causing huge legal bills for gun manufacturers was the point of those lawsuits. The gun control crowd didn't have to win any of their cases - they just had to bring enough of them to bankrupt the manufacturers with legal fees.

If the RICO defense fees exceed the savings obtained by hiring illegal aliens, those employers will eventually stop hiring them.

All that those employers have to do is emulate the gun rights crowd - get legislation passed to protect them from the meritless lawsuits. They can't? Why not?

I don't like any of these political games, but as long as one side is succeeding in playing them, the other side has to play too. Better would be to change^W revert to the rules that prevented such.

The problem with your asses... (Below threshold)
Red Five:

The problem with your assessment, Scott, is that most gun control laws are inherently unconstitutional (and therefore illegal), so the gun-fearing weenies had to resort to activist courts to put their illegal anti-2nd Amendment measures into place. Vasquez and the sherrifs from NH, on the other hand, are trying to stop criminal activity, something which the federal government is supposed to do in this case, but which it's clearly not doing at all. Something has to be done to stop this illegal immigration. At least these guys are trying to do it using other legal means, and not at the muzzle of a gun or the end of a rope.

Damn. Using RICO to make it unprofitable to hire these illegal mugs. Poetry in motion, my friends. A real thing of beauty.

"Vasquez recently announced... (Below threshold)

"Vasquez recently announced he's running for Idaho's single seat in Congress, and some say he's using this to garner publicity and support."

Imagine that. Actually addressing popular issues before running for office. What kind of fool does that?

Mark: what McGehee said.</... (Below threshold)

Mark: what McGehee said.

You aren't "blamed" for "every frivolous lawsuit...(and all the rest you allege) but are incredibly filled with awful hot air.

The thread is not about "Mark" but about something else entirely.

Let's all just wait and let... (Below threshold)

Let's all just wait and let Mark rail on here and see how fast he gets (more) tangled up in rope.

Go ahead, Mark, make our day...

Mark, you're right, we do h... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Mark, you're right, we do have an "appropriate system in place" to handle this problem. The only catch is, it seems it's currently turned off, and nobody seems to know how to turn it on.

Think of it as like being on a sinking boat. You're standing at the pump, demanding to know where the operator's manual is, who is in charge of running it, who knows how to get them running, and all that. Others, like Mr. Vasquez, Chief Chamberlain, and the like, are saying "screw the pumps" and grabbing buckets.

You may drown with a clear conscience that you did everything exactly to established rules and protocol, but you're still fish food. And so is everyone else who was depending on you to save the boat. Vasquez and Chamberlain might drown, too, but at least they know they didn't just do everything right, but they tried everything possible.

I think I'd rather put my trust in their hands, Mark.


I'm afraid I have to go alo... (Below threshold)

I'm afraid I have to go along with Mark on this one.

No matter how satifying it is to see some type of enforcement to replace the lack from the appropriate entities, in the long run we can be harmed even more by the further twisting of RICO in directions never seen at it's passage.

That said, there still has to be some way for local officials to deal with the problem caused by the Federal Government shirking it's duties.

Jay, if your analogy was an... (Below threshold)

Jay, if your analogy was anywhere within 100 light-years of reality, I would agree with you. But it's not; we're talking about government policy and law here. And, while you advocate using the same proscribed means you so frequently condemn the liberals for using, you are being extremely dishonest and short sighted. Seriously Jay, your intellectual fidelity is becoming a joke.

I could go on and on about your myopic problem solving paradigm which essentially amounts to "react now, think later." You ignore so many considerations that would be crucial to evaluating such an action plan, and you apparently can't fathom any responsible and logical approach to creating solutions. There are many serious flaws with the approaches you trumpeted, and I barely scratched the surface with my criticisms.

Using your flawed analogy, Vasquez and Chamberlain are NOT grabbing buckets. Instead, they are cutting holes in the hull of this nation, through which they hope the water will drain. Guess what? Other evils will necessarily leak IN through those new widened holes.

-S-If you can't fo... (Below threshold)


If you can't follow along and respond with any relevant thoughts (you'll find that "T" word in the dictionary), then shut up. I've been pretty kind and deferential lately, ignoring the incoherent and incomprehensible spewage that comprises three of every four heaps of verbage attributed to your signature.

Jay, this is an analogy fro... (Below threshold)

Jay, this is an analogy from my personal life that I think illustrates the flaw in your "react now, think later" philosophy.

For the past week, I have been hemorrhaging vast quantities of blood into my left leg. Think of the leg as the US, and think of the blood cells as illegal aliens.

My leg is swollen, purple, extremely painful, and I can't use it for anything. This is a once proud and mighty leg that carried me through snow ski mogul competitions, and pretty decent 3-hour marathon times. The leg was once reliable and carried me through 85-miles-per-week training runs while also carrying me through courthouses and conference rooms 65 hours per week. Now I can't bear to live with that leg without downing fistfulls of Vicodin. The unchecked blood "immigration" problem is serious, urgent, and something must be done about it.

The one cause for the unchecked immigration of blood is that I am on anticoagulants. The Jay Tea obvious instant reaction solution would be to stop the anticoagulation therapy. Stop the drugs, let the blood clot and fill the holes in our porous border. Seems reasonable, right? The aliens will stay where they belong and the nation will heal. Act now, think about it later.

The problem is, the anticoagulation therapy is necessary. A recent cardiac condition places me at a high risk for stroke. If I stop the anticoagulation therapy to relieve the leg, I will likely stroke out and die. If I die, the leg, our nation, is toast. It seems to me that is a worse outcome than living with a painful and purple leg.

If I had fewer vicodin in my system, I'm sure I could craft an analogy between the heart and brain with our legal system. For now, I'll just pretend as though I did.

While I'm sure Jay Tea, -S- and others here would love to see my two daughters bury their 45-year-old dad, we must be cognizant of the fact that the rash ill-considered quick fix for the leg will likely destroy our nation and worse.

The moral of my drug-addled self indulgence? Know what the fuck you're doing before you set out to "fix" things. Often, more harm is done quickly "fixing" things than if more time is spent on thoughtful analysis and planning.

If I had 5 fewer milligrams of Vicodin in my system, I would not push the post button. Perhaps this is what -s- meant by giving me more rope, and I'm falling for it. Cest la vie.

RE: Mark's drug-induced wan... (Below threshold)

RE: Mark's drug-induced wanderings ;) (August 17, 2005 12:37 AM)

I'm partly with you on this Mark. Let's dispense with the RICO perversion, establish a real physical border barrier with whatever tools necessary, and then dispense vicoden to the masses on the other side to ease their pain of a failing country. No, rescind that last one. Don't deaden the pain since it really only prolongs it. Like a bad habit, we contribute to the perpetuation of that country's mismanagement by subsidizing their organized emigration of population to the U.S.

I've always found it interesting, and I don't believe it to be anecdotal, how Mexico defends its southern border but not its northern one. I wonder why? Could it be that its policy is to aid and abet illegal emigration into the U.S. to tap its economic engine and subsequently subsidize its own? Say it isn't so... If only those corpuscles would coalesce into productive units at home and change their own policies, both bodies would be more healthy.

Mark, there's a fundamental... (Below threshold)
Red Five:

Mark, there's a fundamental difference between what the liberals do and what's going on here. That difference is in the fact that liberals are using the courts to force social laws on us (Roe v Wade, anyone?), when we never would have voted for them in the first place, had they run through the proper constitutional channels. By doing this, the libs hope to make illegal behavior legal, by forcing us to accept it via bench legislation.

What Idaho and these 2 Cow Hampshire sheriffs are doing is using existing laws, albeit in creative ways, to prosecute illegal behavior. Maybe they also hope to get the Feds to wake up and start doing their damn jobs and get these jerks out of our country, but that's less likely.

Mark, maybe you should watch any of the Law & Order shows. You might learn something. Damn lawyers think they know everything.






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