President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both spent Tuesday morning targeting the street gang MS-13.
The president signed an executive order shortly after getting into office which called for the Department of Justice to convene a task force to go after transnational criminal organizations such MS 13. MS 13, whose formal name is Mara Salvatrucha, is primarily run out of El Salvador and started in the 1990s after a wave of deportations from the United States.
Trump, however, blamed open border policies by former President Barack Obama for the spread of the gang in the U.S. “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!,” Trump tweeted.
Sessions echoed these comments in his opening remarks before a meeting of the Attorney General’s organized crime council.
“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,” Sessions said. “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.” (RELATED: MS-13 Gang Recruiting Young Illegal Immigrants, Fueling Crime In DC)
The attorney general pegged the number of MS 13 members as 30,000 in El Salvador and 10,000 spread out across 40 states.
Sessions listed recent horrific crimes committed by MS-13 gang members, such as, “two teenage girls in Los Angeles who were killed with machetes and baseball bats.”
The attorney general said that the U.S. will defeat MS-13 through increased border security and immigration enforcement. MS-13 gang members hail from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and the gang targets immigrant children for recruitment. “If you are a gang member: We will find you. We will devastate your networks,” Sessions added.
He went on to say that this will be similar to the federal government’s past work to “take down the Mafia and the Colombian cartels.”
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly also addressed transnational gangs in an op-ed for the Boston Globe Tuesday. “There is no better argument for secure borders than [transnational criminal organizations], and since I was sworn in as the secretary of DHS three months ago, we’ve increased our efforts to actively secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws,” Kelly wrote.