Illegal Land Barons

by digby

I wrote the other day about the wingnut meme that it's the racial minorities who've caused this crisis. They are really going for it now. Here's Michelle Malkin:

It’s no coincidence that most of the areas hardest hit by the foreclosure wave — Loudoun County, Va., California’s Inland Empire, Stockton and San Joaquin Valley, and Las Vegas and Phoenix, for starters — also happen to be some of the nation’s largest illegal-alien sanctuaries. Half of the mortgages to Hispanics are subprime (the accursed species of loan to borrowers with the shadiest credit histories). A quarter of all those subprime loans are in default and foreclosure.

Regional reports across the country have decried the subprime meltdown’s impact on illegal-immigrant “victims.” A July report showed that in seven of the ten metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates, Hispanics represented at least one third of the population; in two of those areas — Merced and Salinas-Monterey, Calif. — Hispanics comprised half the population. The amnesty-promoting National Council of La Raza and its Development Fund have received millions in federal funds to “counsel” their constituents on obtaining mortgages with little to no money down; the group almost succeeded in attaching a $10-million earmark for itself in one of the housing bills past this spring.

For the last five years, I’ve reported on the rapidly expanding illegal-alien home-loan racket. The top banks clamoring for their handouts as their profits plummet, led by Wachovia and Bank of America, launched aggressive campaigns to woo illegal-alien homebuyers. The quasi-governmental Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority jumped in to guarantee home loans to illegal immigrants. The Washington Post noted, almost as an afterthought in a 2005 report: “Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing major ethnic or racial group, have been courted aggressively by real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and programs for first-time buyers that offer help with closing costs. Ads proclaim: “Sin verificacion de ingresos! Sin verificacion de documento!” — which loosely translates as, ‘Income tax forms are not required, nor are immigration papers.’

I guess Malkin has never heard of something called "No Doc" loans which mean No Income, No Asset, No employment Verification. It's got nothing to do with immigration.

And, like most racists, she forgets herself from time to time and forgets to distinguish between illegal immigrants and Mexican Americans. It makes no difference to her, of course, but they are usually a bit more scrupulous in their obfuscation.

The idea that the trillion dollar credit crunch was caused by illegal immigrants is so ludicrous that I can't stop laughing. She cites California's Inland Empire as a hotbed of illegal immigrant mortgage scammers. I suppose it's possible. But unless they were making a really good middle class living, they wouldn't have been able to afford the payments even under the best conditions on one of those houses. It seems highly unlikely to me that day laborers had the means to commute back and forth hundreds of miles each day to their half a million dollar tract homes out in the desert.

Here's a story from today's LA CityBeat about those houses out in the desert:

As the American financial system finally collapsed and the investment experts swore they never saw it coming, the apocalypse continued out here in the Mojave, slow and steady.

Twenty years ago, the only people who moved to this unloved chunk of inland California were misfits and military and the poor trying to escape the crime and horror of L.A. slums. Then, improbably, absurdly, stupidly, the High Desert on the other side of Cajon Pass became an “exurb,” one of those ugly stucco grids dropped on the ground with feeder roads to the I-15, instant fake luxury, only two hours from the office, when traffic’s good.

And every little chunk of non-government-owned sun-blasted creosote – from the prison-covered hellscape of Adelanto to the trailer-park junkyards of Yermo – suddenly became valuable real estate. Dirt lots you couldn’t give away in 1999 were selling for half a million in 2005, at the insane peak of the bubble, complete with a three-bedroom cardboard castle in the middle of the scraped-bare lot.

There are dozens of these abandoned new houses around me, in these desert foothills that deserved a better fate. The financial wizards could’ve predicted the entire apocalypse had they simply walked around the Mojave and watched the sad routine that’s been going on since at least last year.

Read it all for a very evocative illustration of what's happened to these places. The idea that illegal maids and gardeners were the ones buying is ridiculous. It was average middle class Americans buying in the exurbs to get away from the hustle and flow of the city --- which for many of them was defined as --- too many Mexicans.

This meme is absurd, but it's the only way the conservatives can explain things within their world view. And there's nothing new here. The historical American resistance to government action is historically tied to a reluctance give money to people of color. This goes all the way back to the beginning. They have to find a way to blame this mess on "the other" and while there's certainly plenty of anger at the Wall Street fat cats, it just can't satisfy the wingnut lizard brain. They've been trained to think that the owners have their best interests in mind and will put them first over the darker hued.

I would also bet that one of the ways their conservative leaders can make sure their base will agree to a bail out of the fat cats (eventually) is by making damned sure that blacks and Mexicans aren't similarly rewarded. They're going to have to take responsibility for thinking they had a place in the ownership society.