Representative Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, discussed unemployment fraud, illegal marijuana nurseries, and threats posed by China in an interview with KHTS.
The congressman spoke about his recent actions and future steps in the Wednesday interview in Santa Clarita.
Garcia began by touching on how he recently co-sponsored the bipartisan Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act.
The act would allow veterans and their families free access to national parks and 2,000 federal recreation areas indefinitely, making a Trump-era policy permanent.
“It’s just a token of appreciation and one of the few things we should be doing for our veterans,” Garcia said.
The congressman also cosponsored the bipartisan Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Fraud Protection Act, addressing billions of dollars in unemployment assistance fraud.
See Related: Congressman Garcia Co-Sponsors Act To Recover $31 Billion In Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud
Garcia said California was especially bad at making sure people who got unemployed were actually eligible for assistance and lived and worked in the state.
“Many people still haven’t gotten that unemployment assistance they were expecting, whether it was the stimulus checks or the weekly unemployment assistance,” Garcia said. “There’s been a lot of cases of identity theft. Prisoners, for instance…getting the money and stealing the identities of those who are out trying to get work or working and just trying to recover from the pandemic.”
The PUA Fraud Protection Act holds states accountable for keeping an eye on unemployment payments by making them do audits to track and secure fraudulent payouts.
“We do need all levels of government to pay attention,” Garcia said. “We need the federal government to work this, we need Sacramento to work this.”
Additionally, Garcia touched on the topic of illegal marijuana grows in the high desert.
See Related: Locals Threatened, Natural Resources Drained: Antelope Valley Illegal Marijuana Grows Discussed By Garcia, Villanueva
Garcia said he was tipped off to their existence when he began to get phone calls, mostly from constituents in Acton and Agua Dulce, but also from those in Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and Porter Ranch complaining of illegal marijuana grows with “unsavory actors” staffing them.
Garcia then took a flight with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he found thousands of illegal nurseries in the Antelope Valley.
“Besides savaging our land, they were also stealing our water,” Garcia said. “A lot of illegal immigrants were working as indentured servants under squalid conditions… They were threatening the local residents and the neighbors that weren’t selling their property and rolling over and allowing the cartels to start growing illegal marijuana in their neighborhoods.”
The representative requested assistance from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Within a month, the sheriff’s department conducted the largest illegal grow bust in Los Angeles County history.
See Related: 74 Greenhouses Worth Over $50 Million Bulldozed In Largest Illegal Grow Bust In L.A. County History
The bust was a combined effort. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department received federal funding and had support from local elected officials.
“This is how the government is supposed to work,” Garcia said. “You had federal, state, local, county, city, electeds participating. You had law enforcement allowed to do their job and you had government basically supporting law enforcement rather than trying to defund law enforcement.”
Garcia has been appointed to the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, where he is set to be helping with portioning out the federal budget.
He also plans on continuing to focus on unemployment assistance fraud.
Garcia said he supports an infrastructure package to create jobs and improve roads
The representative has been assigned to the China Task Force within the House, which will deal with cybersecurity vulnerabilities and other areas of concern related to China.
“This is a small group of members of Congress who are looking at ways to protect us from China, both proactively and reactively… and make sure we’re coming out with policies that actually allow us to gain an advantage over China rather than being disadvantaged,” Garcia said.
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