TAKING BACK THE STREETS
December 2, 2008
The growth of transnational gangs has been a dangerous side effect of our failure to control the U.S.-Mexico border and our tolerance for high levels of illegal immigration. Transnational immigrant gangs are spreading out across the United States, in suburban and rural areas as well as in established urban street gang environments; researchers found MS-13 activity -- one of the most notorious gangs -- in 48 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. However, immigration law enforcement has been a key ingredient contributing to the success of criminal gang suppression efforts in many jurisdictions across the United States, say the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
The aliens arrested under Operation Community Shield (ICE) collectively represent a significant menace to the public, says CIS. The vast majority (80 percent) have committed serious crimes in addition to immigrant violations, and a large number (40 percent) have violent criminal histories.
ICE gang arrests have occurred nationwide, with the largest numbers made by the offices in San Diego, Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas:
- Nearly half, or 3,080, of the aliens arrested over the two-and-half-year period studied were affiliated with MS-13 and Surenos-13, another notorious gang with largely Hispanic immigrant memberships.
- Nearly 60 percent of aliens arrested were Mexican citizens; 17 percent were from El Salvador and 5 percent were from Honduras.
- Some jurisdictions with serious gang problems had just a few arrests: Phoenix had only 81 arrests, Houston 84 and Los Angeles, the gang capital of the nation, had fewer than 300.
- These same jurisdictions also had controversial "sanctuary" or "don't ask, don't tell" policies on immigration status in place over the time period studied.
Therefore, policymakers should take further steps to institutionalize partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies and ICE in order to address gang and other crime problems with a connection to immigration, says CIS.
Source: Jessica M. Vaughan and Jon D. Feere, "Taking Back the Streets: ICE and Local Law Enforcement Target Immigrant Gangs," Center for Immigration Studies, October 2008.
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