Immigration agents arrested hundreds of MS-13 members following a multi-city investigation aimed at dismantling networks of the brutal transnational gang at home and abroad, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Thursday.
Dubbed “Operation Raging Bull,” the gang sweep netted a total of 267 MS-13 members in the U.S. and overseas, officials said. The operation is the latest nationwide initiative against MS-13, which the Trump administration has made a priority immigration enforcement target.
“MS-13 has long been a priority for ICE. However, we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS’s components and our domestic and international partners,” Thomas Homan, ICE acting director, said in a statement.
The operation occurred in two phases, with 53 arrests made in El Salvador following an 18-month investigation in September, and another 214 arrests across the U.S. from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11, officials said.
Of the MS-13 members arrested domestically, 198 were foreign nationals, and just five of those had authorization to be in the U.S. Only 16 of the 214 gang members arrested were American citizens.
Because it is has so many criminal alien members with a penchant for carrying out gruesome murders, MS-13 has become a favorite target of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the arrest of more than 3,000 MS-13 members in an international anti-gang operation coordinated by law enforcement officials in the U.S., El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
MS-13’s recruitment of illegal immigrants from Central America — particularly unaccompanied alien children (UAC) — has drawn the attention of Republican lawmakers, who say reforms to U.S. asylum and refugee programs are needed to prevent the gang from replenishing its ranks. Sen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin raised those concerns again Wednesday, noting that the latest ICE operation snapped up 64 MS-13 members who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border as UACs.
“As today’s announcement shows, MS-13 and other violent criminal organizations have exploited America’s broken immigration system to expand their reach around the country,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must work together to apprehend these gang members and I applaud the Trump administration for bringing these gang members to justice.”
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