How Congress Helps Central American Gangs Recruit in U.S.

Bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill that includes a provision that blocks immigration officials from deporting anyone considered a “sponsor, potential sponsor or member of a household of a sponsor” of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs), would further enable illegal and deadly smuggling operations.

Closing a gaping loophole in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act would be much sounder policy.

“This [loophole]has created a toll-free superhighway for MS-13, 18th Street and other gangs to move new foot soldiers in to boost gang activity,” observes Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Fostering the influx of gang recruits from Central America, the Wilberforce Trafficking Act of 2008 stipulates that all minors from non-contiguous countries caught at the U.S. border without parents must be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement and then moved into U.S. communities and schools. Thus, a law designed to protect sex-trafficking victims who are truly destitute and without parents in this country is creating a gaping loophole under which illegal aliens pay criminal cartels to smuggle in their own children. 

(According to data from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, fewer than 10 percent of people sponsoring the Central American teens resettled under the UAC program have full legal status themselves.)

An even more dangerous unintended feature of the Wilberforce Act is that has created an avenue for violent gangs to further infiltrate American communities. “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has estimated that 40 percent of the MS-13 members they’ve arrested in recent years arrived as UACs,” Vaughn reports. “These delinquents are literally terrorizing communities, but instead of empowering ICE to arrest and remove more of them, Congress has made it harder for ICE by blocking access to information on the minors’ sponsors.”

In 2013, Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas called out the Obama administration for “successfully complet[ing]” the “goal of the conspiracy” of drug smugglers to smuggle people over the border on behalf of parents “at significant expense” to taxpayers. Washington did nothing, and things have only gotten worse.

Now Congress wants to handcuff ICE by placing a protective shield over trafficking operations. Meantime, MS-13 and other gangs wreak havoc from coast to coast.

In September, six MS-13 homicide suspects arrested in Maryland were found to be in the country illegally. Last July, federal authorities charged 22 members of the gang with committing a series of “medieval-style” murders in California.

ICE removed 1,332 criminal MS-13 members from the country in 2018, a 24 percent increase over the previous year. Congress should be enacting laws that serve to increase those numbers – not bogus amnesties that make America less safe.

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