On Friday, President Trump visited Long Island, New York to meet with local law enforcement and discuss measures that would be taken to eliminate gang activity in the area.
Trump’s visit was prompted by a violent MS-13 gang attack in April, in which four young men were brutally beaten and sliced to death by gang members with wooden clubs and machetes. After the horrifying quadruple homicide, Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the town of Central Islip to meet with the victims’ families. The area, an MS-13 hotbed, has been experiencing a major uptick in gang activity in recent months, and Long Island law enforcement agencies have begun developing new initiatives to prosecute more gang members, stop gang formation, and put an end to these violent crimes.
Since the start of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly declared a nationwide crackdown on gang activity, singling out MS-13 in particular. Speaking in an auditorium at the Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus on Friday, Trump stated that his administration seeks to “dismantle, decimate, and eradicate” gangs. In his speech, President Trump bolstered the police and called for them to be more aggressive in arresting gang members, saying that officers should be less “nice” and that more abrasive detainment methods would be effective. After stressing the importance of border enforcement and faster deportations, Trump then urged Congress to fund hiring 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to crack down on undocumented immigrants—particularly those who pose a criminal threat, to “eliminate MS-13 and root out the criminal cartels from our country”.
The gang, believed to have originated among immigrant communities in 1980’s Los Angeles, has become infamous across the United States for its violent methods, including torturing victims and hacking them to death with machetes. “They kidnap, they extort, they rape, and they rob. They prey on children. They shouldn’t be here. They stomp on their victims, they beat them with clubs, they slash them with machetes and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields. They’re animals”, Trump said.
The president’s speech did draw protestors outside of the campus, who held signs and chanted “No ban, no wall, no raids, New York is for all”. Many dissenters believed that the visit was just a smoke-screen by Trump to condemn immigrants, with many protesters saying that they felt President Trump painted all Latinos as thugs and gang members, reinforcing a damaging stereotype. The visit also came just days after Trump announced a ban on transgender people in the military, prompting protests nationwide.
Before leaving, Trump pledged to have the backs of law enforcement officers, saying “We’re going to enforce our laws, protect our borders, and support our police like our police have never been supported before. […] Together we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we’re going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs”.