White House Unveils MS-13 Policy Ahead Of Trump’s Visit To Long Island

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Fresh off a Thursday evening House vote that saw $1.6 billion appropriated for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration is turning its attention to filling out the rest of its ambitious immigration agenda, which includes a crackdown on the violent transnational gang MS-13.

The White House laid out its wish list for immigration enforcement policy in advance of President Donald Trump’s Friday visit to Long Island, where MS-13 is responsible for a spate of brutal murders this year.

High on the list of priorities are ushering a series of enforcement bills through Congress and tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers responsible for tracking down and deporting criminal aliens, particularly known members of border-spanning gangs like MS-13. The legislative agenda would intensify the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which has already dropped precipitously in the first six months of 2017. (RELATED: Arrests Of Illegal Aliens At Southwest Border Jump 9%, Remain Well Below 2016 Level)

“We as a country are going to do everything we can to remove you if you come here illegally,” a senior administration official told reporters on background Thursday, emphasizing the administration’s intention to take an enforcement-first approach to immigration policy.

Trump will cap a week of tough talk on illegal immigration when he visits Long Island to deliver a major speech on law enforcement and transnational gangs. The official said the president will draw a connection between lenient immigration enforcement and the rise of MS-13, which has bolstered its ranks following a surge of unaccompanied minors during waning years of the Obama administration.

“MS-13 is a gang that has been fueled by migration” from Central America, the official said, adding that stanching the flow of illegal immigrants across the southern border will “completely and totally degrade” the gang’s ability to sustain itself.

The administration has pushed its crackdown on MS-13 hard this week. ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan spoke at the beginning of the White House press briefing Thursday afternoon, touting the administration’s focus on deporting criminal aliens. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in El Salvador meeting with officials from the Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — where MS-13 is based and from where the gang’s U.S. affiliates draw fresh recruits. (RELATED: In El Salvador, Sessions Convenes Meetings On Crushing MS-13)

In his speech Friday, Trump hopes to shine a light on the “real humanitarian consequences” of the MS-13 resurgence and also to rally Congress to get behind his immigration agenda, the White House official said. After issuing a series of executive orders on interior enforcement, a temporary travel ban, and sanctuary cities, Trump now seeks to persuade Congressional Republicans to push through pending immigration enforcement legislation.

The measures include Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which the House passed at the end of June, and the Davis Oliver Act, a sweeping enforcement bill that punishes sanctuary cities, provides for expedited removal of criminal aliens and empowers local jurisdictions to enforce federal immigration law. That bill, introduced by GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Raul Labrador of Idaho in May, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and is currently awaiting a House floor vote.

The administration will also call on Congress to provide funding for a significant increase in ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers to handle the anticipated deportation workload. The White House hopes to hire as many as 10,000 new ERO officers, along with a “substantial” number of additional immigration judges.

“5,000 not going to do it,” the administration official said, referring to the current level of ICE officers working on detention and removal operations. “15,000 is the bare minimum.”

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