Washington Metro area officials are blaming illegal immigrants for a rise in gang related violence, and are imploring federal officials to enforce immigration laws and stymie the flow.
“We warned two to three years ago that this influx over the border of illegal aliens was going to cause an increase in MS-13 and other gang-related crime,” Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisor, told Fox 5. “It’s happening. We are seeing it happen. It is not just in the border towns. It is happening all across America and we are seeing it especially here in Northern Virginia and the D.C. region.”
Maryland and Northern Virginia have an influx of immigrants and a rise in homicides, many tied back to increased gang activity, particularly with the notorious MS-13 group. District officials saw a record homicide rate in 2015, but Maryland is also struggling with a rise in violent incidents. Montgomery County Police said they investigated eight gang-related murders in 2015, four times more than in the previous year, reports Fox 5.
Law enforcement officials in the D.C. Metro area argue the spike in activity correlates with the wave of unaccompanied minors coming across America’s southern border.
The Supreme Court voted in a 4-4 split decision Thursday on Differed Action, which would have allowed illegal immigrants and their families to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation. The split decision means the door is currently left opened for continued deportations of people living in the U.S. illegally.
CASA de Maryland, a immigrant advocacy group based in Maryland, says the decision puts immigrants back at risk, calling on President Barack Obama to halt further deportations for the rest of his term through executive action.
“We are so sad, so disappointed but we will not stop fighting until our families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, said in a statement. “President Obama has already deported millions of people but with this final blow to hope delivered by the Supreme Court today he should at least stop worsening the damage to immigrant families and communities.”
Despite the position of advocacy groups, local officials’ primary concern is preventing more gang violence. MS-13 is increasing its activity and targeting susceptible young immigrants. A surge of minors crossing the U.S. southern border in recent years is helping the notorious gang boost its ranks and instigate a new string of violent attacks in the city and surrounding areas. (RELATED: MS-13 Gang Recruiting Young Illegal Immigrants, Fueling Crime In DC)
Experts say violence from MS-13, which originally started in California, historically occurs in waves. Currently MS-13, on orders from El Salvador, is ramping up efforts in cities across the U.S. to reestablish their dominance on the streets.
The gang is known for brutal violence and murders, usually involving knives and machetes. Eight homicides in Virginia and Maryland over the last year are linked to MS-13.
“What we are beginning to see is an attempt to re-establish themselves as the preeminent gang in the Maryland area,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy told The Washington Times in March. “They are actively trying to build their numbers again. That is based on direction they are receiving from outside the U.S.”
Three immigrants who entered the country illegally in 2013 were arrested and charged with the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old in Loudoun County, Virginia. The men allegedly entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, eventually falling off government radars after skipping their immigration hearings.
El Salvador, the gang’s home country, has the fourth highest per capita murder rate in the world, in large part due to the influence of MS-13. Washington, D.C., has the second largest Salvadorian community in the country behind Los Angeles at roughly 228,000 people.
In past years, violence from MS-13 members appeared to be on the decline, as the gang shifted focus to human trafficking and running local brothels. A multiple gang truce reached in El Salvador in 2012 also contributed to a lull in violent activity from MS-13. The truce failed, however, sparking a huge uptick in the homicide rates of Central American countries, which is beginning to spill into American cities.
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