The ongoing flow of illegal immigration from Central America has swelled the ranks of the brutal MS-13 gang—and some law enforcement agencies want more federal assistance to target gang members, police officials told a Senate panel on Wednesday.
One law enforcement official emphasized the need for a database to track every identified MS-13 gang member in the country.
Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini of the Suffolk County Police Department in New York asked Congress for more federal prosecutors to pursue RICO cases against known MS-13 gang members. Suffolk County could partner with the FBI to set up a system where every arrested MS-13 member is screened for “possible federal prosecution,” he said.
“This would increase the number of federal prosecutions of MS-13 gang members, take dangerous individuals off our streets, and likely generate significant intelligence due to the incentives in the federal system for defendants to cooperate with law enforcement,” Sini said before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“Second: Improve intelligence charing among law enforcement agencies throughout the country,” Sini continued. “Perhaps by creating a singular database with information relating to identified MS-13 gang members. This system could include automatic notification to local agencies, when information is added regarding an individual who is of interest to that agency. Such a database would encourage multi-jurisdictional operations and allow local police departments to be more proactive in targeting MS-13 gang members in our communities.”
“Third: Additional federal funding to offset patrolling costs in hotspot policing in areas affected by MS-13 activity. Fourth: Additional federal funding for gang prevention and intervention programs tied directly to the number of [unaccompanied alien children] placed in our communities, as they are some of the most vulnerable to MS-13 recruitment,” he said.
Federal officials must be more transparent with the communities they send illegal aliens to, Sini said. School districts and local governments should be made aware that illegal aliens will be resettled in their neighborhoods.
“And lastly, improvements to the UAC program, including but not limited to: Increased screening and compliance monitoring of sponsors, notification of placement to school districts and local governments, and increased funding for post-placement services,” he said. The federal government has shipped 4,624 unaccompanied illegal alien minors to Suffolk County in only three years, according to Sini.
The relentless flood of illegal immigration also creates privacy concerns for citizens—illegal alien gang members will communicate on apps that encrypt messages, making them virtually impossible for police to intercept. Maryland’s Montgomery County police chief J. Thomas Manger warned that police cannot even obtain them with a court order.
“Technology also plays a role in hampering law enforcement’s investigations against the gangs and other transnational criminal organizations. In our recent case with the DEA and HSI, investigators learned that gang members were using commercially available encrypted ‘apps’ to plot their criminal activities,” he said. “These applications and other technologies are part of the growing, larger issue of criminal organizations ‘going dark’ and exceeding the current abilities of both local and federal law enforcement to legally monitor conspiratorial communications, even with a court order.”
“I also urge Congress to act to balance citizens’ rights to privacy with law enforcement’s need to lawfully monitor and intercept electronic communications regarding criminal activity and potential deadly plots,” he later added.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson also noted at the beginning of the panel that most of illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. are not “children,” but young men aged between 15 and 17 years old, ripe ages for gang recruitment.
When talking about “unaccompanied children,” Johnson said, “I know immediately people think of little children, seven, eight, nine, ten years old.”
“But here are the facts: Out of 180,000 unaccompanied children apprehended from 2012 to 2016, and that includes from Central America as well as Mexico, so it’s not just Central America,” he said. “Sixteen percent of those unaccompanied children were 15, 16, or 17. In other words, prime gang age. By the way, 68 percent were also men. Less than 18 percent were of the age of 12 and under.”
“CBP apprehended them, knew they were MS-13 gang members, and they processed and disbursed them into our communities,” he added, referring to documents revealed by a whistleblower. Sixteen known MS-13 gang members were released into American neighborhoods by the Obama administration.