Gang violence accounts for 48% of all violent crime in America. According to FBI reports, an estimated 1.4 million people make up over 33,000 gangs across the United States today. The National Gang Center estimates 46% of these gang members to be Hispanic or Latino– from this figure, it can be approximated that about 15% of these members have entered the United States illegally.
One of the most notoriously brutal gangs in the country is the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Originating in 1980’s Los Angeles, the gang was started by Salvadoran immigrants who wanted protection from more established street gangs. MS-13 continued to grow as they recruited illegal immigrants fleeing the civil wars in Central America. The gang quickly began to be recognized for their ruthlessness.
A string of murders on Long Island, New York, has sent the community into panic, opening people’s eyes to the vicious nature of the gang. Recent victims of MS-13 violence have been brutally beaten, stabbed, and hacked to death with machetes; the fear of violence has grown so prevalent that area parents have begun removing their children from public schools.
From 2005 to 2015, the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ran a program known as Operation Community Shield. The program targeted criminal aliens involved in street gangs, reporting that 92% of MS-13 affiliated immigrants were illegal aliens. Of that group, 10% had entered the United States illegally at least twice.
Another violent group making its way across the nation, the 18th Street gang has developed a reputation for being involved in a variety of criminal activities. From burglary, to selling drugs, to racketeering, to murder—the group partakes in any illicit activities that bring in cash. The gang once even kidnapped the brother of Honduran athlete Wilson Palacios for ransom, only to kill the young boy after receiving the money, his body being found nearly two years later.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein admitted in a 2003 report that up to 80% of the 18th Street gang is comprised of illegal immigrants. Would the gang be as powerful if it didn’t have a steady flow of recruits from below the border?
The FBI has noted the severity of this situation, recently stating, “MS-13 and 18th Street gangs have become so bloodthirsty in El Salvador that the government has declared them terrorist organizations”. This has left many Americans asking, why are we leaving our southern border open to this?
The problem does not end with street gangs. Mexican cartels move drugs between the two countries, having operational cells in most major American cities, as indicated on the DEA map below. Make no mistake, these are sophisticated criminal enterprises. Aside from running drugs, these groups are also involved in weapons trafficking, human trafficking, and extortion. Would these groups have so much power and control over their operations if there were a barrier in place to help curb this criminal activity?
If these groups continue to have a supply of illicit contraband and foot soldiers entering from the south, the problem will likely only grow worse. By cutting off the pipeline for recruiting and financing criminal gangs, we diminish their power.