Donald Trump could be pushing immigrants straight into the hands of MS-13, a transnational street gang.
Over the past two years, the United States has seen a surge in action from one of the most violent gangs in the country, Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13. The Trump administration’s harsh laws against immigrants have made Central Americans the number one target of the group.
As per the BBC, MS-13 is a transnational street gang that was formed during the 1980s in the barrios of Los Angeles but has its roots in El Salvador. It is active in both Central America and the US where it has at least 30,000 and 6,000 members respectively. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it has a presence in 46 states and the District of Columbia.
MS-13 was founded by immigrants who had fled conflict in El Salvador, while other members joined from around Central America, including Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. With its members often covered in face and body tattoos, MS-13 is notorious for a number of crimes, including racketeering, murder, kidnapping, rape and prostitution.
To recruit, MS-13 targets vulnerable Central American immigrants. In this video, CNN interviewed gang members to find out why a rising number of young people are attracted to the group.
“They feel like they can do whatever they want, because [Donald] Trump himself has made everybody fear,” an anonymous MS-13 member said. “All the immigrants, they feel like if they go to the police or something they’ll get deported.” If innocent people are being deported, then immigrants are left with little incentive to fight against gang violence with the proper procedure of reporting it to the police, inevitably leaving them with the notion: If you can’t beat them, join them.
Youth who have recently arrived in America and are in the midst of the shaky immigration process are the most vulnerable. MS-13 pries on the fresh youth who are not familiar with the US or the people, and the group sends death threats to those who refuse to join. But out of fear of deportation, these immigrants keep quiet from the police.
President Trump aims to crack down on MS-13, but skeptics say it could just be another tactic to deem immigrants as criminals and pursue mass deportation.
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