[February 7, 2018]
By Pamela Tsai, America Daily
President Trump hosted a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security officers at the White House on Wednesday in which he delineated the threat from the MS-13 gang and how it was aggravated by existing immigration loopholes. He pressed lawmakers to fix the problems through immigration reform.
The live-streamed meeting was attended by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, members of Congress, and a group of law enforcement officials.
Secretary Nielsen discussed two loopholes that DHS faces. “The first is, we have an inadmissibility problem, meaning that when they come to our border, I have to let them in,” she said. “I cannot keep them out by virtue of them being in a gang. Once we catch them and detain them, I cannot remove them by virtue of them being in a gang.”
John Cronan, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, gave a detailed account of the MS-13 operation in the US. He said there are more than 30,000 members worldwide, one-third of which are in the US.
“An estimated 10,000 MS-13 members are living in our country. They’re primarily composed of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador,” Cronan said.
Illegal immigrants from El Salvador make up the second-highest recipients of DACA (25,900), after those from Mexico (548,000)
MS-13 commits violent crimes such as machete attacks, execution-style murders, gang rape, and human trafficking,
“The reason MS-13 is so massive in our country, the reason why they have 10,000 members in 40 states and the District of Columbia, is because many of those gang members have illegally entered our country,” said Cronan.
Challenges for Law Enforcement
Cronan brought up the immigration loopholes that have presented significant challenges for law enforcement bodies to reduce and eliminate MS-13 presence and its threat to American communities.
“Now, the Department of Justice and our state authorities can continue to prosecute scores of MS-13 members located in the United States…. But when we have loopholes in our immigration laws, and when we have porous borders and insufficient enforcement of our immigration laws, MS-13 can simply replenish its jail population by sending more and more gang members across our borders,” said Cronan.
Based on a White House Fact Sheet, approximately 38 percent of all murders in Suffolk County, New York, between January 2016 and June 2017, were linked to MS-13.
Angel Melendez, a special agent in charge of the ICE office in New York City, said their efforts in fighting MS-13 are often made futile by the broken immigration system.
“When you have agents going out identifying, based on intelligence, and conducting targeted enforcement operations, they apprehend these individuals that we’re able to determine that are MS-13 members,” said Melendez. “And once they are presented to the immigration judge for detention purposes, we explain that these individuals are a threat to society and they are MS-13 members. But these individuals are being released, and then we have to utilize our resources to focus on these individuals that have been released.”
This meeting came at a time when President Trump is pushing his four-pillar immigration reform proposal, which includes building a southern border wall, restricting chain immigration, and ending the lottery for immigration visas, in exchange for granting a citizenship pathway to an estimated 1.8 million young immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as minors.
“I called on Congress to close the immigration loopholes that have allowed this deadly gang to break so easily into our country,” President Trump said.
After the meeting, Trump signed an order establishing a National Vetting Center, led by the Department of Home Security, aimed at improving the nation’s screening of immigrants and travelers to the United States.
“We have to strengthen our borders, not by a little bit but by a lot. We are so far behind the time,” Trump said.