A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reveals that the hyper-violent MS-13 transnational criminal gang has spread to 22 U.S. states. The gang accounted for 207 murders, mostly in California, Maryland, New York, and Virginia since 2012. The rapid growth is attributed in the report to the influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan researched MS-13 gang activity over the past six years and found the arrests of 506 MS-13 members who were charged with crimes in 22 states. Of those, 207 were murders and more than 100 cases were racketeering, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion.
Of the 506 MS-13 gang members arrested, 126 were positively identified in reports as illegal immigrants, Vaughan reported. The number is likely higher as many states do not identify the legal status of the accused in their reports. Of the 207 accused murderers, 38 were identified as illegal immigrants.
“The Trump administration has declared war on MS-13, the notoriously brutal gang based in El Salvador,” Vaughan stated in the report. “A similar initiative launched by the Bush administration in 2005 stifled the gang’s activity after several years, but the gang has been able to rebuild itself here since 2012.”
“All criminal gangs are a threat to public safety, but MS-13 is a unique problem because of the unusually brutal crimes its members have committed, its success in using intimidation to victimize and control people in its territory, and its focus on recruiting young members, often in schools,” she added.
Vaughan connected the resurgence of MS-13 gang membership and their associated crimes to the influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) that began in 2014. She reported that the crimes committed by MS-13 are concentrated in the areas with large numbers of UACs who were resettled across the country by the federal government.
“Today, a smaller percentage of MS-13 members is believed to be here illegally. Some are U.S.-born, others have obtained green cards or have Temporary Protected Status; some have Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” Vaughan wrote. “But when the gang leadership decided to launch a more concerted effort to enlarge in the United States, it was able to take advantage of the Obama administration’s catch-and-release policies for unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to move in younger members from Central America.”
“At a recent roundtable of officials convened at the White House by President Trump on February 6, 2018, to discuss the MS-13 problem, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said that MS-13 members had committed 17 murders in an 18-month period, representing 38 percent of all homicides in his district,” the CIS policy studies director reported. “According to investigators, the number of MS-13-related murders in Montgomery County, Md., has gone from about one a year to seven in the last two years.”
The gang appears to focus the majority of its crimes on young people. More than 50 percent of the victims were between the ages of 14 and 21. The majority of the MS-13 members arrested were between the ages of 14 and 29.
The CIS report recommends the following actions be taken by Congress:
There are a number of steps Congress should take to assist federal and local law enforcement agencies in combating MS-13 and other transnational criminal organizations. Many of these provisions are found in the Secure America’s Future Act, introduced by a group of committee chairs in the U.S. House of Representatives.14
These steps include:
- Update the definition of a criminal gang in federal law, and provide for a designation process to create a bar to the admission of gang members and grounds for their removal. This ensures that the federal government can prevent the entry of known gang members and deny them access to any form of visa, permanent residence, work permit, asylum, or other immigration benefit. Currently, the government must wait for a gang member to commit a crime before disqualifying them from such benefits.
- Require ICE and the Border Patrol to detain gang members while they are being processed for deportation.
- Update the law to provide for more serious consequences for sanctuary jurisdictions and the officials who impose sanctuary policies.
- Revise immigration law to allow DHS more flexibility in dealing with minors and families who are caught after crossing the border illegally.