The decline in gang member arrests raises concerns about just how much of a priority for immigration enforcement international gangs are under the Obama administration’s policies, according to Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) expert Jessica Vaughan.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Data that Vaughan recently obtained via a Freedom of Information request reveals that since 2005 ICE has arrested more than 32,200 gang members.
Arrests of such violent gang members reached a high in 2012 but then plummeted by more than 25 percent the following year. Such arrests continued to decline in 2014.
“This recent record calls into question President Obama’s claim that gang members are among the highest priorities for enforcement,” Vaughan writes in her most recent report. “The administration has been severely criticized for legalizing known illegal alien gang members in the controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, who has been arrested in North Carolina for the murder of four people.”
Indeed, Rangel-Hernandez has been the subject of congressional interest after the Senate Judiciary Committee this month confirmed that the murder suspect avoided deportation because he was approved for DACA.
Vaughan’s report also looked at the countries of origin for gang arrests and concludes that arrests were “disproportionately” from Central American gangs. According to the most recent 2013 data the top four countries of origin of arrested gang members were Mexico (45 percent). Honduras (21 percent), El Salvador (13 percent), and Guatemala (4 percent).
Her report also notes that Texas law enforcement says Border Patrol in south Texas has been encountering an increasing number of MS-13 members since 2011.
The south Texas gang phenomena, Vaughan explains, “corresponds with the increase in Central American minors and families arriving illegally. In 2014, 43 percent of all gang members encountered in the Rio Grande Valley sector were affiliated with MS-13. Of these, 11 percent were minors.”
And while Vaughan contends that immigration enforcement is a key “tool” in the fight against criminal gangs, she says that DHS “appears increasingly reluctant to consider gang membership or criminal gang activity as a factor necessarily leading to the denial of immigration benefits or deportation.”
According to Vaughan, ICE should be allowed to do its enforcement work, to protect Americans from dangerous criminal gang members early on before their crimes escalate.
“But the Obama administration’s ill-conceived enforcement policies have shielded too many gang members from deportation,” she writes. “There is an unacceptable human cost to these so-called prosecutorial discretion policies.”