The ongoing crackdown on the brutal Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang at the hands of President Donald Trump’s White House will likely benefit the Latino community in the United States by keeping them safe from the villainous group–which has mostly plagued other Hispanics–suggest local and federal law enforcement officials.
Nevertheless, some Latinos and mainstream media outlets have criticized the Trump Administration’s efforts to eradicate the criminal group, indicating that it will strengthen MS-13 and drive illegal immigrant victims further into the shadows.
CNN’s “Republican” pundit Margaret Hoover even argued that by vowing to support law enforcement efforts to destroy the MS-13 gang last Friday, President Trump blatantly appealed to “white nationalists.”
Various U.S. law enforcement officials at the local and national level have pointed out that the violent Latino gang primarily targets other Hispanics.
“MS 13 gang members are involved in all sorts of criminal activity whether it’s prostitution, sex trafficking, drugs, firearms and they victimize the very communities they live in,” Thomas Homan, the director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, told Fox News last month.
“So if the immigrant community is being victimized, they don’t want them in the community either,” added Homan when briefing reporters at the White House last week.
While some law enforcement officials have acknowledged that Latinos are less likely to report crimes, it is no secret that most of the victims of MS-13 are Hispanics, including citizens as well as legal and illegal immigrants.
In late May, J. Thomas Manger, the chief of police in Montgomery County, Maryland, an MS-13 hotspot located outside of the nation’s capital, told lawmakers, “MS-13 preys upon the immigrant community with the worst forms of violence and intimidation.”
“These vicious tactics utilized by the gang have a chilling effect on the [Latino] immigrant community. Join the gang or be beaten, pay an extortion or your family will be targeted, go to the authorities and be killed. The forced silence of the community caused by these violent tactics adds to the gang’s reputation and power,” he added. “This is what local law enforcement across this country is faced with when confronting MS-13 and why it is so difficult to combat this group and obtain the trust of the most affected communities.”
Both Homan and Manger acknowledged that they rely on the immigrant community to help them identify, track down, and arrest MS-13 gangsters.
ICE did not dispute that the Trump Administration’s law enforcement efforts against MS-13 will benefit the Latinos in the United States by liberating their communities from the criminal gang.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment on whether or not the majority of MS-13 victims are Latino.
Echoing the ICE director, Timothy Sini, the police department commissioner in the Suffolk County part of Long Island, New York—a known MS-13 stronghold—indicated to U.S. lawmakers in May that the majority of MS-13 members and victims in his jurisdiction are likely illegal aliens.
Sini also noted that MS-13 members in Suffolk are primarily concentrated in a community where nearly 70 percent of the population identified as Latino or Hispanic in the latest national census.
Scott Conley, a detective for the Chelsea Police Department in Massachusetts and member of the FBI’s North Shore Gang Task Force, also told Senators that MS-13 activity in his jurisdiction is concentrated in Latino-majority neighborhoods.
Some of the crimes committed against the Latino community by MS-13 include rape, murder, burglaries, drug distribution, and extortion.
Police chief Manger of Montgomery County explained:
In the past, MS-13 was known to extort a “tax” on illicit underground businesses such as “bordellos” or houses of prostitution and unregulated “cantinas” or back room bars that operated out of apartments and houses. However, the police department has received secondhand reports of extortion of legitimate Latino owned businesses and of Hispanic residents living in apartment complexes in certain neighborhoods being extorted “rent” from the gang.
In some instances, if the victims of this extortion initially refuse to pay the fee demanded by the gang, the gang members return with detailed information on the intended victims’ family members still living in Central America where the threat of violence is more tangible, and the perpetrators are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
The gang also targets other Latinos, including children, for recruitment as well as Hispanic rival gang members for physical assault and murder.
Nevertheless, CNN and other mainstream media outlets have criticized the Trump Administration’s efforts to destroy the criminal group, citing members of the notorious gang who unsurprisingly voiced opposition to the ongoing law enforcement operations.
Consistent with the position of the members, Walter Barrientos, the Long Island coordinator with the immigration advocacy group Make the Road, claimed in a CNN interview that the immigration enforcement actions against the criminal organization are “emboldening” MS-13.
Last Friday, Trump pledged to “restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities” and “destroy the vile criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs,” adding, “From now on, we’re going to enforce our laws, protect our borders, and support our police like our police have never been supported before.”
There are “more than” 10,000 MS-13 gang members operating in “at least” 46 states and the nation’s capital, with a significant presence in Houston, Long Island, Charlotte, and Washington, DC, according to the federal government.