Golden Fortress, The—California’s Border War on Dust Bowl Refugees By Bill Lascher, 232 pgs.

Nov 15, 2022

As I write this, it’s been two weeks since Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis (aka Count Rugen from The Princess Bride) arranged to have Venezuelan migrants in Texas flown to Massachusetts—he obviously did this to appeal to those GOP voters for whom the most important issue is America’s sadism supply, in preparation for that day when he runs for president, but the official chickenshit reason was that he wanted to stop migrants who were “intending to come to Florida” from doing so.

As Bill Lascher’s The Golden Fortress tells us: in 1936, Los Angeles police chief James Davis sent a group of officers to Alturas, Calif., a small town six hundred miles away in northern California, less than fifty miles from both Nevada and Oregon, with the goal of deflecting migrants who were fleeing the hell that was the Dust Bowl.

The official reason for this offensive was that many of those migrants would end up in Los Angeles. Really, though, a Los Angeles police chief was (and is) in constant political jeopardy, and this “bum blockade” was designed to aid Davis’s job security. I invite you to guess whether crime actually dropped in Los Angeles as a result.

Lascher finds much more to write about regarding people with influence than he does regarding migrants with no influence—he hasn’t found stories of individuals fleeing the Dust Bowl, no “Okies” or “Arkies.” But the stories (in some cases, profiles) Lascher does find are compelling, and his sympathies are clearly with the influenceless. At one point, I have to say, his cop antipathy reaches the level of hysteria, but I don’t have the word space to go in-depth on this point.

The Golden Fortress is a California history, and it’s equally a Los Angeles history, and I enjoyed having gaps in my understanding of those histories filled. –Jim Woster (Chicago Review Press, chicagoreviewpress.com)

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