DOJ Has Charged More Than 700 MS-13 Gang Members in Four Years

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has directed his administration to vigorously pursue the violent transnational criminal organization, La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), across the country. Those efforts have produced significant progress in protecting the American people from criminal aliens.

On October 21, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the results of their tenacious work fighting against MS-13 by releasing a report entitled, “Full-Scale Response: A Report on the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Combat MS-13 from 2016-2020.”

According to the report, the DOJ has prosecuted 749 confirmed MS-13 gang members since 2016. So far, 500 of those defendants have been convicted of criminal offenses. Some of the primary offenses included illegal re-entry following deportation, human trafficking, using a firearm during a crime of violence, narcotics distribution, and murder in aid of racketeering. One gang leader was charged with national security offenses, the first time a MS-13 member has ever been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

The immigration statuses of the charged MS-13 members between 2016 and 2020 are as follows:

  • 74 percent were illegally present in the United States;
  • 15 percent had an immigration status that was undetermined; 
  • 8 percent were U.S. Citizens;
  • 3 percent had lawful status.

Under the Trump administration, the DOJ has employed significant personnel and other resources to counter the presence of MS-13 in the United States. In April of 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a crackdown on violence perpetrated by the gang. The following year, the Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) task force was created by Sessions to coordinate law enforcement efforts in dismantling MS-13 and Mexican drug cartels.

Succeeding Sessions, Attorney General William Barr has picked up the mantle in stamping out MS-13. In August of last year, Barr created Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV), which coordinates information between the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The collaboration between the U.S. and El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico has led to several indictments of MS-13 groups and leaders, which were detailed in the report.

While the Central American gang has been dealt a tremendous blow, more can be done to mitigate crime from MS-13. One method would be withholding federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities when attempting to apprehend unlawful migrants, especially those with known or suspected ties to gangs.

Another measure would be enacting the Cracking Down on Gangs and Deporting Criminals Act of 2020, introduced by U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Under the proposed legislation, any illegal alien convicted of a crime that qualifies for stricter sentencing according to the bill’s criteria would be jailed longer. Additionally, the alien would be referred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for possible deportation.

The success of effective immigration enforcement by the DOJ and its other law enforcement partners is commendable. Local and state agencies ought to follow their example if they want to emulate their triumphs in upholding public safety.

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