California Legislature Orders Juvenile Justice Data Overhaul
LOS ANGELES — Alex Sanchez knows the temptations of joining gangs for young Central American immigrants.
He fled to the United States in 1979 as an unaccompanied minor (he was 7, his brother 5) to escape the Salvadoran civil war. Eventually he got involved in gang violence, went to prison and was deported before returning to the United States illegally. He was granted political asylum in 2002 and in 2006 became the executive director of Homies Unidos, a nonprofit violence- and gang-prevention organization in Los Angeles.
“You’re looking at the gangs having fun, going out, and the girls and cars, and you’re stuck. You don’t know what to do. You walk outside and there’s the gangs, there’s drugs, alcoholism, prostitution and police harassment,” Sanchez said.
While it’s certain that some Latino youth — born in the United States or not — are in the juvenile justice system across California, it is anyone’s guess how many and how their journey through the system affects them.