MS-13 Remains an Ever-Present – and Expanding – Threat to Communities Nationwide



Two years ago, the ruthless MS-13 gang was at the center of the ongoing national debate over illegal immigration and sanctuary cities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized President Trump for calling them “animals,” while Vox published a video claiming brutal gang members were misunderstood kids who liked to take selfies and ride their bikes. While they may not grab national headlines now, MS-13 remains a concern of federal and local law enforcement.

Contrary to those who wish to downplay the threat of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, their brutality and disregard for the communities on which they prey can be seen in local headlines over the last few months.

  • In July, an MS-13 gang member was arrested for the murder of Francisco Medrano-Campos outside his Wheaton, Maryland, apartment. Five other suspects with MS-13 ties were arrested in June. All suspects are illegal aliens.
  • On July 1, an El Salvadoran MS-13 member was sentenced in a New York State court to 34 years to life in prison for the 2018 murder of Ian Cruz and Harold B. Sermeno, who was shot four times in the head. The trial of other gang members are pending.
  • In June, police officers in Baltimore County, Maryland, began investigating the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Michelle Tenezaca and the non-fatal stabbing of her teenage sister and boyfriend. All three attacks had links to the notorious MS-13 gang, according to police.
  • Two adults and one teen were arrested for their involvement in three separate attacks that took place in mid-June and which Leesburg, Virginia, police determined were related to MS-13 gang activity.
  • On May 14, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed indictments against 10 members of the Indios Locos Salvatruchas clique of MS-13 on various federal crimes that prosecutors described as “cold-blooded, senseless and brutally violent.”

Following the June sentencing of two MS-13 members for their involvement in the 2018 shooting and stabbing of a 40-year old man in Virginia, G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, did not mince word about the culpability of local officials who claim they support sanctuary policies in order to protect immigrant communities.

“By burying their heads in the sand and lacking courage to address a problem because they mistakenly deem it to be politically incorrect, various community leaders in Northern Virginia simply refuse to acknowledge the gang problem to the detriment of the same Hispanic community they claim to be defending,” he argued.

Furthermore, statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that arrests of MS-13 gang members have increased rapidly over the last two years. In FY2017, there were 228 total arrests of MS-13 members, but that figure almost doubled to 413 in FY2018 and rose again last year with 464 gang apprehensions. So far in FY2020, 61 arrests of MS-13 gang members have been made. Additionally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations personnel made over 450 arrests of MS-13 members in FY2019, the latest data available.

Rather than fading away, the notorious gang is expanding beyond the communities where they’ve had a decades-long presence. For example, MS-13 is branching out beyond the suburbs of Washington, D.C., into several counties in Maryland, a known sanctuary state.

Last September, seven MS-13 gang members – six of whom are illegal aliens – were arrested in Baltimore County for a brutal July 2019 murder.

“We are starting to see a presence spreading throughout Maryland and areas where we traditionally have not,” FBI and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Cheyvoryea Gibson told WJZ-TV, CBS News’ Baltimore affiliate in January.

In fact, MS-13’s presence has become so pervasive in Maryland that the state took the unprecedented step of setting up a tip line for anonymous tips. Local and national officials and the media may be blissfully ignorant about MS-13’s continued threat, but for those living in the communities they lead, that ignorance has deadly consequences.

About Author

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

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