Amidst controversies taking center stage in nearly every realm of the Trump administration, some important and potentially ominous cases are going unnoticed. One such example is the deadly gang Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly referred to as MS-13.
POTUS is traveling to Long Island today to talk about the fight against MS-13, and the Attorney General himself is currently in El Salvador, addressing the problem at its core. The leaders of MS-13 are stationed in the San Salvadorian prison, Penal de Ciudad Barrios, a prison dedicated solely for MS-13 members. Although the prison is heavily guarded (by the army), the prisoners essentially run the prison themselves, because the guards are too scared to enter the prison.
The Attorney General will be meeting with the Justice Department’s transnational anti-gang task force as well as the attorney generals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. All discussions will be focused on developing a join effort to dismantle and eradicate MS-13.
The gang’s motto is “Mata, viola, controla”, which translates to “kill, rape, and control”. The MS-13 is notorious for being inhumanely violent, and as the Principal Deputy Attorney General, Rob Hur, described some of the cases, “so violent and heinous that the government saw it fit to pursue the death penalty”. Their preferred means of attack include machete attacks, gang rape, human trafficking, among other equally despicable acts of violence.
They use violence as a means of instilling fear and gaining power. The brutality of their attacks comes with a shock factor that not only frightens but also gives them control over territory, in both the U.S. and Central America.
So what is the U.S. doing to fight to take down MS-13?
Following POTUS’ executive order and guidance, federal prosecutors as well as law enforcement agencies (ATF, DEA, FBI, Marshals Service), will be prioritizing the prosecution of gang members, in particular, MS-13. The Department of Justice has also requested funding for 300 additional federal prosecutors, with their role being to focus specifically on this issue.
Hur also reemphasized the efforts to collaborate with law enforcement agencies not just around the U.S. but in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The prioritization of cross-border collaboration was also mentioned, with the emphasis again being on collaboration in an effort to defeat MS-13. He cited some examples of successful efforts in collaboration in prosecuting some high-profile criminals.
Further, Hur spoke to the revitalization of the Institutional Hearing Program, which essentially speeds up the process of deportation of federal criminal alien inmates once they’ve served their prison sentences. Hur also said that sanctuary cities will be held “accountable for their lawless conduct”, in terms of serving as sanctuaries for criminals.
Tom Homan, the Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, later spoke to the immigration and deportation aspect of prosecuting MS-13 members and affiliates. ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation, more commonly referred to as the HIS National Gang Unit, has launched various target operations across the country over this past year “to identify and arrest gang members while working to dismantle the organizational structure that supports them”.
Homan stressed how important the collaboration and support of local partnerships, particularly local law enforcement, is in terms of efforts to proliferate gangs like MS-13.
“Cooperation is critical. It is often state and local law enforcement, not ICE, that first come into contact with transnational gang members. Together, through partnership, we can keep our streets safe. Together, our gang is bigger than theirs.”
When asked about whether members of the immigrant community (not involved with MS-13) fear speaking up or assisting law enforcement, in worry of deportation, Homan said they have nothing to fear if they are not guilty of a crime. And that “there’s actually benefits to victims of crimes through the immigration process”. Again he stressed how important collaboration was in successfully fighting MS-13.