Vernuccio’s View: MS-13 and Lax Immigration policy

MS-13 gang members tattooes. Credit: ibtimes.co.uk

MS-13 gang members tattooes. Credit: ibtimes.co.uk

Americans generally agree that legal immigration is beneficial to the nation, but remain divided as to how tightly illegal immigration should be dealt with. An important part of that discussion is a candid discussion of what the dangers of illegal immigration are. Increasingly, attention is being paid to the rise of violent crime by the MS-13 crime organization.

According to Lifezette,  The Justice Dept. says the cost of incarcerating non-citizens in federal prisons exceeds $1.2 billion. Brendan Kirby reports that “Nearly a quarter of the inmates in federal prisons were born outside the United States.”

In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Chief of Carla Provost  testified  before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the international MS-13 criminal organization, and its connection to illegal immigration. Following lax enforcement of the U.S. border and the influx of illegal immigrants during the Obama Administration, substantial action became necessary. Provost stated that “…One of the biggest challenges we face are TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] such as the international criminal organization known as Mara Salvatrucha 13, more commonly known as MS-13…it has proliferated both throughout the United States and the region more recently… MS-13 took full advantage of these flows of foreign nationals into the United States…As a result, American citizens have died, and domestic law enforcement across the nation has had to deal with the burden of MS-13 violence and drug-dealing on American streets on a daily basis.”

Fox News  reported in May that “At least 16 self-proclaimed MS-13 gang members were transferred out of federal custody and into community placement centers across the country during the border surge in unaccompanied children from Central America in 2014, according to a new letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs…In 2014, the Obama Administration declared a humanitarian crisis after tens of thousands of immigrants flooded across the United States border. The dramatic increase in immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras overwhelmed border authorities at the time…documents appear to show that the federal government knowingly moved self-identified gang members…to placement centers in communities across the country. …”

The Trump White House has emphasized that sanctuary city policies were creating safe havens for MS-13. The Washington Times reported that “The Trump administration…put sanctuary cities front and center in its battle to take down the ruthless MS-13 street gang, saying the efforts to shield illegal immigrants was providing safe haven for violent criminals…’Cooperation is critical. It is often state and local law enforcement not ICE that first come into contact with transnational criminal organizations,’ Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters at the White House.” Attorney General Sessions has emphasized the fight against MS-13.

The Daily Caller quotes Attorney General Sessions:  “Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors … They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults—MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools, and even our elementary schools. Robert Hur, the principal associate deputy attorney general, said Mr. Sessions had made the takedown of MS-13 a priority and had taken new steps to crack down on sanctuary cities to advance the fight.”

The image of unaccompanied minors as little children is misleading. Out of nearly 200,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended between from 2012 to 2016, 68 percent were ages 15, 16 or 17 — meaning older teens. The majority were also male, making them targets for gang recruiting, and in some cases, they were already active gang members.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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