MS-13 Operating in White House’s Shadow

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 21, 2017
MS-13 Apartment Crime Scene
Langley Park, MD., near White House, hotbed of MS-13 violence.
Open border’s consequences were tidily summed up in this Washington Post headline: “MS-13 Menaces a Community Seven Miles from the White House.”

Border patrol officials warned of MS-13 gang members crossing unimpeded along with the so-called unaccompanied minor aliens that surged the Southwest border in recent years, and escalated in 2014.

Washington Times reporter Steve Dinan wrote in his June 2017 story that at least 30 percent of illegal alien children have ties to MS-13 or other gangs, and are no shows at their follow-up immigration court dates. Border Patrol officials identified 160 teens who were known or suspected gang members when they arrived, but the Obama administration said it had to admit them under U.S. law, a reference to the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which, as it turned out, was inapplicable in around 50 percent of the cases.

In a hearing earlier this year, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), blamed the failures of “the current system is fraught with abuse, systematic errors and a lack of effective cooperation.” Those failures have deadly consequences. In the last three years, at least 42 young people who crossed into the U.S. and claimed unaccompanied status have been involved in MS-13 violence over including 19 charged in connection with slayings, attempted slayings and four who were killed.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up its MS-13 pursuit. During FY 2017, ICE has arrested 800 MS-13 members, and including arrests of all street gangs, 5,000.

While ICE still has a lot of work to do to eliminate the transnational MS-13 that has established footholds across the U.S., focusing on removing violent criminals is a welcome policy change. The Obama administration paid little notice to the waves of criminals that entered allegedly as unaccompanied minors.  

Carla Provost, the acting Border Patrol head described MS-13’s resurgence to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing referenced above: “MS-13 took full advantage of these flows of foreign nationals into the United States by hiding in these populations to enter our country. 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.”

Years of lax border enforcement can’t be overcome in one year even though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made MS-13 a priority. But the trend, apprehending and deporting MS-13 criminals, is in the right direction.
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