MS-13 Resurgence Linked to Alien Child Arrivals and Lack of Interior Enforcement

Article subtitle: 
Interactive map shows MS-13 violence in 22 states
Article publisher: 
Center for Immigration Studies
Article date: 
21 February 2018
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies examines over 500 MS-13 criminal arrests, 207 of which were for murder. The gang's resurgence is directly connected to two factors: the resettlement of more than 300,000 Central American youths and families that started up in 2012, and the de-prioritization of interior immigration enforcement that occurred around the same time. In addition, our analysis shows that many of the hot beds of MS-13 activity are also places where local officials have adopted sanctuary policies.

The more than 500 MS-13 arrests were spread across 22 states, but they were concentrated in the areas where many UACs [Unaccompanied Alien Children] were resettled by the federal government. This influx provided MS-13 with a new pool of tens of thousands of mostly male teenagers from which to recruit new members. According to local gang investigators, these gangs have been known to recruit recently arrived Central American children as young as 10 years old.

Jessica Vaughan, the Center's director of policy studies, said, "Failed immigration policies are partly responsible for the rebound of MS-13, and immigration enforcement will have to be a key part of the strategy to combat them. Because so many of the MS-13 members are here illegally, they are more vulnerable to these tactics. If state and local law enforcement agencies are not allowed to cooperate fully with ICE, then they are missing out on an opportunity to put a dent in this gang's strength. In addition, Congress must act to fix our laws to give DHS more flexibility in dealing both with the influx of minors and families and with the sanctuaries."

The report provides recommendations, most found in the Secure America's Future Act (H.R.4760, commonly known as the Goodlatte bill), for Congress to combat the MS-13 resurgence.

Key findings:

  • We found 506 MS-13 members arrested for or charged with crimes that were reported in 22 states. The largest number of cases were reported in California (92 cases), Maryland (84 cases), New York (80 cases), and Virginia (63 cases).
  • MS-13 crimes are not primarily petty nuisance crimes. 207 MS-13 members were charged with murder. In addition we found more than 100 accused of conspiracy/racketeering, and dozens of other arrests for drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion.
  • While most of the reports of MS-13 suspects in our case set did not include information on the immigration status of the individual, we could determine that 126 of the 506 suspects (and 38 of the 207 murder suspects) were illegal aliens.
  • The median age of MS-13 gang members identified was 23, and suspects ranged in age from 14 to 57.
  • The median age of their victims was 19, and ranged in age from 14 to 74. Sixty of the victims were under the age of 18, including 52 of the murder victims.
  • We could determine that 120 of the 506 MS-13 arrests in our case set arrived as UACs, including 48 of the murder suspects.
  • The location of these MS-13 crimes corresponds with locations of large numbers of UACs who were resettled by the federal government.