Friday, March 02, 2018


The New York Times has a good story about MS-13 -- the gang and the myth:
Few dispute the violent menace that MS-13 is to pockets across the United States. Its members wield machetes, kill with abandon and terrorize — for the most part in immigrant communities.

But law enforcement officials at local, state and federal levels describe the Trump administration’s hard-charging campaign against MS-13 as out of proportion with the threat.
President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have tried to make MS-13 stand for all undocumented immigrants. As a result, online right-wingers regularly use the phrase "MS-13 Dreamers" based on no evidence that the gang members they're referring to are DACA beneficiaries or DACA-eligible. (Dreamers need to have a clean criminal record.) In fact, as the Times story notes, not all MS-13 members in this country are undocumented -- and the gang is only a genuine menace in a few areas of the country.
Not all members of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, are illegal immigrants. Nor does the gang survive on the global trafficking of drugs, guns or people.

... the gang is believed to have 10,000 members in 40 states, according to the F.B.I. — but predominantly in just three metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, Long Island in New York and the region outside Washington. Most of its 30,000 other members live in Central America or Mexico, according to the authorities.
The gang has committed some brutal crimes -- but it's not all-powerful.
It is not a sophisticated global drug cartel, and many gang members are destitute....

In one case, the suspected leader of one the largest MS-13 cliques in Maryland recently canceled a drug deal because he did not have enough money to pay for gas to drive to the drop-off point, according to a law enforcement official in the state.
What upsets the law enforcement community is that the administration's fixation on MS-13 is drawing attention and resources away from more serious problems.
In December, [Attorney General Sessions] announced 40 new assistant United States attorney positions across the country to fight MS-13 and other gangs, including two on Long Island and three in Maryland.

One official at a United States attorney’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was troubled by new pressure on MS-13 cases, given skyrocketing opioid crimes and a growing national human trafficking problem....

Timothy D. Sini, the Suffolk County district attorney and former police commissioner, said MS-13 “constitutes a significant public safety threat” and was responsible for 17 murders in 15 months in that area of Long Island.

“With that said,” Mr. Sini said, “the No.1 public health and safety issue facing Suffolk County, as in other communities, is the drug epidemic. And this drug epidemic is a moving target.” He said opioid overdoses killed more than 300 people in Suffolk County last year, compared with six deaths linked to MS-13.
The pressure is so bad that the FBI may be faking MS-13 arrests.
In New York, F.B.I. agents have grumbled about having to focus on MS-13, according to a senior bureau official; there have been worries that agents have arrested members of Trinitario, a Dominican gang, but characterized them as MS-13 members to inflate their arrest totals to meet expectations, a senior state law enforcement official said.
This is what happens when you govern by anecdote rather than data, and when you choose your anecdotes based on how much they rile up viewers of Fox News.

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