It’s been a few years since the public spotlight has been shown on McGonigle Canyon, in San Diego, but the ‘dirty secret’ has returned and the illegal migrant camp is complete with prostitution. The underbelly of San Diego has again reared its ugly head.
Many of the illegal migrants hail from the Mexican state of Oaxaca where they live in a very similar environment in shanty towns along the sides of the hills.
“This is not a lot different than how many of them live back home in some of the poorest parts of Mexico,” says Jeff Schwilk founder of the San Diego Minutemen. “They don’t mind living rent free in the canyons; it allows them to send all their earnings back home to their families.”
Area resident who has been affected by this situation before, Julie Adams, explains many of the workers who call McGonigle Canyon home make more than $100 per day or $2,000 per month, tax free. “They could easily afford an apartment if they wanted to.”
Law enforcement disagrees. “If they are not legal, they lack the proper documentation to secure an apartment,” says Capt. Miguel Rosario of the San Diego Police Department.
This is where the barriers begin. Concerned citizens take a hard-line approach and want the illegal immigration problem and crime in the canyon dealt with by law enforcement, period. Most agree that many American’s simply do not want to know what is going on in canyons like McGonigle. It’s just too unpleasant.
However, law enforcement looks at this issue much differently. Capt. Rosario believes the canyon dwellers have no choice in their living situation and looks to the lack of low-income housing in the region as a problem.
“There is no dialog about the migrants living in the canyon,” he said.
Immigration activists like the Minutemen couldn’t disagree more; they feel their efforts to assist a cash-strapped police department with credible intelligence are mostly ignored and even criticized due to the strong influence of the Mexican activists in the San Diego city government.
As far as the victims in most recent case, most agree it would not be the suspected illegal pimp/john and prostitute.’ J.C. Playford a freelance video journalist was charged Saturday evening with a misdemeanor assault after he called authorities.
“These two admitted they were illegally in this country and the girl said she was a prostitute who charged $30. I have the tape to prove it,” he explains. Playford makes the credible point that it would be awfully hard to chase the alleged criminals, continue filming 30-40-feet behind and take the time to beat up the illegal male.
But officers who arrived on the scene saw things differently. Police stated falsely accusing Playford was a member of the Minutemen, something he and Schwilk both deny. There was also a third person on the scene, who also was charged along with Playford who may have been a member of the San Diego Minutemen, but was unable to be reached for comment.
The outrage here seems to fall into the smear the messenger category.
Not so, says Capt. Rosario. After stepping back and reassessing the situation, he believes there may have been a case against the two men.
“When our officers made the initial contact they found two cans of Mace and a stun gun,” Rosario said. “If they knew there was danger in the canyon why did they go looking for it?”
In an earlier statement Capt. Rosario claimed the two men had sticks, but in an interview today Rosario said “he may have been mistaken on the sticks or walking canes.”
He continues to explain that if the group called ahead of time and said they heard about some illegal activity taking place things might have turned out differently.
Playford insists he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who called SDPD, who asked the group to walk up the canyon to meet the authorities.
So why the charges against the whistle blowers?
“This is an on-going case and nothing is finalized,” Rosario said. “I concede things could have happened as Playford described, which is why my officers let both men walk with a misdemeanor ticket.”
This is now an official investigation where all parties will be contacted and it will ultimately be up to the District Attorney’s office whether they will pursue this case.
Lost in all this seems to be the suspected illegal immigrant prostitute and pimp/john.
“We have their identification and addresses and cannot discuss them any further,” Rosario noted. However, if these two were considered victims and not criminals, it is unlikely that they ran any immigration checks or deported.
Adams has seen this movie before. “Back in 2006 the canyon was home to 300-500 migrants which included make-shift homes, stores, roach coaches and other illegal activity including prostitution.”
“I harken this to the city’s graffiti policy. You don’t notice it anymore because it’s now allowed,” she said. “If we make it harder for those living in the canyon, they’ll leave.”
There is also the nearby crime taking place that Adams points to. “I’ve had my home robbed and I’m not the only one. Why are the police not protecting the people who live here legally?”
“SDPD has been blatantly protecting the illegal canyon dwellers in McGonigle for over 3 years since we first starting exposing the horrors there,” Schwilk said. “My home was raided in 2007 on an illegal search warrant and several other activists have been charged with false crimes because they dared to expose the truth about the crime and dangers in the migrant camps.”
“Even though we have exposed all over the internet the city's covering for the illegal alien squatters, their vicious attacks on concerned citizens continue to this day. The city still refuses to allow ICE to remove the illegal aliens and send them home."
Capt. Rosario also claims this is a highly-charged issue and until the federal government policies change, no one will be able to address the situation.
“The bigger problem is this takes place out of the public view. It’s part of the continued demand for cheap labor which drives the market,” he said.
As far as tackling the serious problems that plague McGonigle Canyon, Rosario states Lt. Rudy Tai, of the Vice Dept., has committed resources to the canyon in order to follow up on the allegations of prostitution.
“We will find out if this is individual or organized prostitution.”
The Vista Community Clinic may be providing the prostitutes with free condoms. John Monti, another concerned citizen, reported he found a flyer left behind in the canyon which stated where and how to obtain the contraceptives.
“These activities are being done with federal and state money,” Monti said.
The SDPD will now conduct helicopter flyovers in the canyon day and night to ensure there are no fire threats in the region.
That may be of comfort to some area residents, but not John Bautista, who says he sleeps with one-eye open now.
Radio talk show personality, Rick Roberts has called for a ‘camp out’ in McGonigle Canyon. His show did this back in 2006/07 when the first problems sprung to the surface and was successful in getting the authorities to bulldoze the mini-city and clearing out the canyon – for a while.
In the end there are no winners here. The migrants continue to be in a tough situation, prostitutes will move along to a new location and the residents will be left to pick up the pieces.
The lesson here is the law must always reside with the legal U.S. residents.
For more stories; www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner