President Trump Declares War on Salvadoran Street Gang MS-13

By Jerome R. Corsi

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaking at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 2017, President Obama declared war on the Salvadoran gang known as MS-13. MS-13 is an abbreviation for Mara Salvatrucha, the most notorious and dangerous Hispanic street gang operating criminally today in the United States.

Now, President Trump has declared, “At the heart of my administration’s efforts to restore the rule of law has been a nationwide crackdown on criminal gangs, and that means taking the fight to the sanctuary cities that shield these dangerous criminals from removal.”

“The last very weak administration allowed thousands and thousands of gang members to cross our borders and enter into our communities, where they wreaked havoc on our citizens,” he continued, squarely placing the blame on President Obama’s “open borders” policy for allowing MS-13 to become a criminal menace in the United States.

“The bloodthirsty cartel known as MS-13 has infiltrated our schools, threatening innocent children,” Trump stressed.  “A very respected general recently told me that the MS-13 are the equivalent in their meanness to Al Qaeda.  My administration will not rest until we have dismantled these violent gangs, and we are doing it rapidly, by sending them out of the country.”

President Trump’s comments received thunderous applause, followed by chants of “Build That Wall!”

On February 9, President Trump signed an executive order on “Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking,” which instructed the Department of Justice and other federal law enforcement agencies to reverse Obama administration policies that allowed criminal gangs like MS-13 to proliferate within the United States.

The order identified transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations as targets, including transnational drug cartels that “have spread throughout the nation, threatening the safety of the United States and its citizens.”

In the order, Trump specified the threat created by transnational criminal organizations as follows:

These groups are drivers of crime, corruption, violence, and misery. In particular, the trafficking by cartels of controlled substances has triggered a resurgence in deadly drug abuse and a corresponding rise in violent crime related to drugs. Likewise, the trafficking and smuggling of human beings by transnational criminal groups risks creating a humanitarian crisis. These crimes, along with many others, are enriching and empowering these organizations to the detriment of the American people.

Trump called for a “comprehensive and decisive approach” to dismantle these organized crime syndicates and restore safety for the American people.

MS-13 terrorizes Long Island

Speaking the day before, Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined Republican Rep. Peter T. King of New York, speaking before a group of local police chiefs at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip on Long Island.

“The MS-13 motto is kill, rape and control,” Sessions said. “Our motto is justice for victims and consequences for criminals. That’s how simple it is. Prosecute them, and after they’ve been convicted, if they’re not here lawfully, they’re going to be deported.”

Sessions’ vow to eradicate MS-13 from Long Island was precipitated by a series of brutal murders, including a quadruple murder linked to an ongoing street war in which four butchered and blood-splattered bodies of young men were found in a Central Islip park, with police identifying the killings as “consistent with the modus operandi of MS-13.”

The Associated Press reported in April 2017 that MS-13 had been linked to 11 Long Island killings, including a particularly brutal double murder of two teenage girlfriends who were accosted while walking home by men with baseball bats and a machete. Prosecutors reported that in the month before her death, one of the victims had been involved in a series of disputes with MS-13 members.

On May 24, 2017, the New York Post reported the MS-13 gang had been linked to a startling 38 percent of all the homicides in Suffolk County over the last 16 months, with 17 of 45 murders occurring since January 1, 2016.

Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told the New York Post that MS-13 engages in selling drugs, stealing, and extortion, but unlike other gangs, the primary motivation of MS-13 is not to make money, but to terrorize the community.

“MS-13 often engages in violence for the sake of violence, to increase the notoriety of the gang and to cause communities to fear the gang and its members,” Sini told the Senate Homeland Security Committee, claiming MS-13 has about 400 members in Suffolk County, with the average age of gang members being 18, and the typical assault associated with MS-13’s “signature” weapon – the machete.

On May 28, 2017, Newsweek reported fear of MS-13 in Long Island had reached the point where parents were reportedly withdrawing their children from school, terrified they could be recruited into the gang, befriended by the gang on social media, or lured into becoming gang members by the appeal of MS-13’s money, weapons, and lifestyle.

On June 14, 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York had launched Operation Matador to create “a united effort dedicated to combat the proliferation of MS-13 and other transnational criminal gang activity in the New York City metropolitan area, including Long Island.”

According to the ICE press release, Operation Matador had resulted in the arrest of 45 individuals in the previous 30 days, all of whom were confirmed as gang members, including 39 affiliated with MS-13.

The Trump administration’s efforts to eradicate MS-13 are not limited to New York and Long Island. The Los Angeles Times reported on May 17, 2017 that more than 40 suspected members of MS-13 faced federal charges in Los Angeles in what law enforcement officials called “one of the most significant busts of the transnational gang in its notorious decades-long history.”

Why is MS-13 so dangerous?

Formally, the name of the MS-13 gang is La Mara Salvatrucha, which has since become slang for “The Salvadoran Gang.” This derives from Salva, short for “El Salvador,” and from trucha, which basically means “wise guy,” much like the New Jersey working-class Italian mobs that have typically designated gangsters.

There are several explanations for why the number 13 became associated with the gang. Some say it refers to the letter “M” being the 13th letter of the alphabet. MS-13 gang members, known for their idiosyncratic use of hand gestures, often identify themselves with a stylized hand gesture that forms into an “M.” Others say that the “13” is a reference to 13th Street in Los Angeles. Some claim the word mara comes from a street in San Salvador. The word mara itself has now become slang for “gang.”

The late 1970s through the early ‘80s were a period of leftist revolutionary violence throughout Latin and Central America.

Styled as revolutionary movements in the style of Fidel Castro or Che Guevara, communists and socialists gave rise to new revolutionary heroes, such as Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua joined the refugees from the civil war in El Salvador.

Many of these Central and Latin American families settled in Los Angeles, where they pushed out poor Mexican residents in areas like Pico-Union to make room for themselves in new Central American barrios.

Among the refugees fleeing El Salvador were members of the ex-revolutionary guerrilla forces, who grew up knowing weapons and seeing violence. These displaced refugees formed the nucleus of MS-13.

Members of MS-13 are identified with distinctive tattoos that frequently cover the head, arms, and upper body. The tattoos are typically done in “black letter” solids of blue indigo ink with letters written in Gothic script.

These indelible tattoos identify permanently the person as a member of MS-13, demonstrating the person’s lifelong loyalty to the gang. Some gang members tattoo their scalps, cheeks, or eyelids, wanting easily visible body parts to identify them with MS-13.

Frequently, the tattoos contain the letters “MS” or Mara Salvatrucha spelled out in Gothic letters. The number 13 appears regularly in the tattoos, as do references to girlfriends and images of knives or dice.

The FBI maintains books of tattoo photos from MS-13 members whom they have interviewed or imprisoned, in an attempt to understand, identify, and catalogue the images and references.

Once a person becomes an MS-13 pandillero (gangster), he is one forever. The MS-13 gangster is proud to show his markings to the world. That is the gangster way. Typically, the only way to get out is to die naturally or be killed.

MS-13 makes money dealing drugs and dealing in stolen merchandise. The drugs come across the border from Mexico and are supplied by the Mexican drug cartels.

They also do a handy business in stolen vehicles that are destined for sale in Mexico or in Central or South America, as well as extortion and even kidnaping, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Other popular sources of money include running guns from Mexico and smuggling human cargo out of Mexico to service the twenty-first-century slave trade in under-market employment.

MS-13 members think and act as drug dealers and users themselves. The gang not only carries and distributes the drug trade for the Mexican drug cartels, but its members typically make free use of the drugs that they transport and deal.

Gun-running, drug-dealing, and fencing stolen merchandise are currently the three major lines of criminal business for MS-13.

Add to this the human trafficking and extortion revenue that they produce, and you will see that gang-based crime is an expansive, lucrative, tax-free, multi-billion-dollar, hemispheric business for MS-13, with the majority of the crime gang’s income earned right here in cities throughout the United States.

The gangster culture celebrates the gang, especially the fallen members killed in gang warfare. A neighborhood marked by MS-13 wall graffiti is marked as MS-13 turf for everyone to see.

Today, the MS-13 gangster lifestyle is celebrated in Spanish-language “gangsta rap” music, easily recognized and revered by Hispanic youth throughout the hemisphere.

MS-13 constitutional rights?

 In a 5-4 decision in the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982), the Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants and their children, although not citizens of the United States, are people “in any ordinary sense of the term,” and, therefore, are to be afforded Fourteenth Amendment protections.

Writing for the majority, Justice William J. Brennan noted the following:

The Fourteenth Amendment provides that "[n]o State shall. . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." (Emphasis added.) Appellants argue at the outset that undocumented aliens, because of their immigration status, are not "persons within the jurisdiction" of the State of Texas, and that they therefore have no right to the equal protection of Texas law. We reject this argument. Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a "person" in any ordinary sense of that term. Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as "persons" guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The distinction is that for MS-13 gang members who are arrested and charged with criminal activities, various special treatments afforded to illegal immigrants by the Obama administration will not be honored by the Trump administration in their due-process administration of criminal justice.

At a press conference announcing MS-13 gang arrests on Long Island on June 19, 2017, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Angel Melendez told reporters that HSI and its DHS, DOJ, and local partners will go after the gang using criminal prosecution and enforcement of immigration laws.

Melendez made clear this will include revoking members' deferred action status (DACA) and/or special immigrant juvenile status, as well as canceling work permits granted to those in asylum or deportation proceedings.

Melendez remarked that there must be stricter vetting of youths who are allowed to enter as unaccompanied alien children (UACs).

As noted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), what Melendez did not mention was the need for better vetting of sponsors, the majority of whom are in the country illegally, and aggressive follow-up after the youths are released from ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) custody.

CIS noted that currently the follow-up is just a phone call to the sponsor's household that takes place one month after placement.

If convicted of a crime, an MS-13 gang member will be deported immediately upon release from prison, provided he is not already a legal U.S. citizen. 

If caught illegally re-entering the United States, the MS-13 gang member, as an illegal alien who is now a convicted U.S. felon, should understand the action of re-entering the U.S. after deportation could be classified as a felony, carrying an automatic 10-year prison term with no possibility of parole.

Still, defenders of illegal immigrants on the political Left are certain to raise constitutional objections, especially when it comes to the right of children born in the United States to be considered U.S. citizens under the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Nor can law enforcement expect to receive much assistance from illegal immigrants who have not committed any crime, because they may fear coming forward to law enforcement and/or because they fear reprisal from MS-13.

But, in the final analysis, those on the left seeking to keep all possible illegal immigrants in the United States because they might vote Democratic will be hard-pressed to oppose President Trump’s law enforcement efforts to eradicate MS-13.

The reality remains that MS-13 and illegal immigration are a “lethal combination,” plaguing every community with the ill fortune to be threatened by the gang’s menacing presence.

By declaring his intention to eradicate MS-13 from the United States, President Trump is fulfilling his campaign promise to put “America First” when it comes to preserving and protecting the safety of American citizens to live peacefully in their home communities throughout the USA.