The criminal gang MS-13 has exploded in growth in the U.S. and has now been linked to crimes in twenty-two states, according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies. Since 2012 there have been more than 500 arrests of reported MS-13 members and the group has been tied to 207 murders.
Many of the crimes the gang members are charged with are felonies. More than 100 of the cases included charges for conspiracy/racketeering, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults and extortion. Most cases, (ninety-two) were reported in California, followed by Maryland with eighty-five, New York with eighty, and Virginia with sixty-three.
The gang’s membership explosion seems to be tied to the U.S.’ immigration policy regarding unaccompanied minors. Of 506 MS-13 suspect-cases reviewed, 120 were found to have arrived as UACs (Unaccompanied Alien Children), including 48 of the murder suspects.
The U.S.’ policy toward unaccompanied minors who arrive at the border is to release them into U.S. communities while they await a hearing with an immigration judge. The study finds that the de-prioritization of deportation of undocumented minors under the previous administration has also contributed to the gang’s explosion.
President Trump has vowed to end the U.S.’ catch and release policies and last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he was making MS-13 a focus of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, a designation that makes the El-Salvador-based gang a priority for the coordinated efforts of multiple federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the International Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“They all have one mission: to go after criminal gangs and drug traffickers at the highest levels,” Sessions said at the time. “Now, they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus…Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off the streets.”