Lax Border Enforcement let MS-13 Grow

Americans generally agree that legal immigration is beneficial to the nation, but remain divided as to how tightly illegal immigration should be dealt with. An important part of that discussion is a candid discussion of what the dangers of illegal immigration are. Increasingly, attention is being paid to the rise of violent crime by the MS-13 crime organization.

According to Lifezette,  The Justice Dept. says the cost of incarcerating non-citizens in federal prisons exceeds $1.2 billion. Brendan Kirby reports that “Nearly a quarter of the inmates in federal prisons were born outside the United States.”

Crime from illegals costs far more than the expenses of incarceration. A DEA report notes that  “Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. They control drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share, particularly in the heroin and methamphetamine markets.”

In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Chief of Carla Provost  testified  before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the international MS-13 criminal organization, and its connection to illegal immigration.

Following lax enforcement of the U.S. border and the influx of illegal immigrants during the Obama Administration, substantial action became necessary. Provost stated that “…One of the biggest challenges we face are [transnational criminal organizations] TCOs such as the international criminal organization known as Mara Salvatrucha 13, more commonly known as MS-13. While MS-13 has had a presence in the United States and been a regional threat for many years, it has proliferated both throughout the United States and the region more recently, as our partners at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice have reported. CBP has faced many challenges in recent years, including large-scale flows of foreign nationals from Central America and Mexico. 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.

“As a result of the Executive Orders issued by the President [Trump]…we are seeing a historic shift in illegal crossings along the Southwest border. Since January 2017, the number of illegal aliens we have apprehended on the Southwest border has drastically decreased, indicating a significant decrease in the number of aliens attempting to illegally enter the country. The number of illegal aliens apprehended in March 2017 was 30 percent lower than February apprehensions and 64 percent lower than the same time last year. This decline also extends to unaccompanied alien children (UAC).”

President Trump blames the rise of MS-13’s strength within the United States on his predecessor. “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!”

There appears to be substance behind the President’s allegation. Fox News  reported in May that “At least 16 self-proclaimed MS-13 gang members were transferred out of federal custody and into community placement centers across the country during the border surge in unaccompanied children from Central America in 2014, according to a new letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs…In 2014, the Obama Administration declared a humanitarian crisis after tens of thousands of immigrants flooded across the United States border. The dramatic increase in immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras overwhelmed border authorities at the time. Fox News has now learned that more than a dozen teenage gang members were captured during the surge. According to Johnson’s letter and documents obtained by Fox News, the gang members “freely admitted” that they were “active MS-13 gang members” and marked bathrooms inside a placement center in Nogales, Arizona with MS-13 associated graffiti…These documents appear to show that the federal government knowingly moved self-identified gang members from Nogales, Arizona to placement centers in communities across the country. As you know, it is common for UACs (unaccompanied children) to be released from their placement center while awaiting a court date. It is unclear from these July 2014 documents whether any of these self-identified UAC gang members were released…”

The White House further emphasized that sanctuary city policies were creating safe havens for MS-13. The Washington Times reported that “The Trump administration…put sanctuary cities front and center in its battle to take down the ruthless MS-13 street gang, saying the efforts to shield illegal immigrants was providing safe haven for violent criminals…’Cooperation is critical. It is often state and local law enforcement not ICE that first come into contact with transnational criminal organizations,’ Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters at the White House.” Attorney General Sessions has emphasized the fight against MS-13.

The Daily Caller  quotes Attorney General Sessions:  “Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors … They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults—MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools, and even our elementary schools.

Robert K. Hur, the principal associate deputy attorney general, said Mr. Sessions had made the takedown of MS-13 a priority and had taken new steps to crack down on sanctuary cities to advance the fight.

The Washington Times  quoted Senator Ron Johnson,  (R-Wisconsin) chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who has stated that

“The Obama administration knowingly let in at least 16 admitted MS-13 gang members who arrived at the U.S. as illegal immigrant teenagers in 2014…CBP apprehended them, knew they were MS-13 gang members, and they processed and disbursed them into our communities…”

The criminals entered the U.S. during the Obama Administration as “unaccompanied alien children.” According to Johnson, the media image of these minors was incorrect.  They were older teenagers, and predominately male. The gang members were part of the surge of UAC, or “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government labels them, who overwhelmed the Obama administration in 2014, leaving Homeland Security struggling to staunch the flow from Central America. Officials at the time said the children should be treated as refugees fleeing horrific conditions back home — though security analysts said the children were prime recruiting territory for gangs already in the U.S.

Mr. Johnson said the image of UAC as little children is misleading. Out of nearly 200,000 UAC apprehended between from 2012 to 2016, 68 percent were ages 15, 16 or 17 — meaning older teens. The majority were also male, making them targets for gang recruiting.