Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in a joint operation with the Department of Justice, has arrested over 200 individuals in a crackdown of the gang MS-13. Officials were surprised, however, when they discovered many were using an immigration loophole to enter the United States and avoid scrutiny by the authorities.
Sixty-four of the individuals arrested entered the United States by claiming to be “unaccompanied alien children” (UACs), designation from a program used to assist orphans or separated minors. While the program has been able to help a number of deserving children gain legal residency and put them on the path to citizenship, the Obama administration rarely required verification of many who claimed the status. That led to the program being abused by a number of individuals who should never have entered the country.
That seems to be changing under the Trump administration, as stricter vetting as led to a massive drop in illegal immigration. That should make it much harder for MS-13 gang members to take advantage of the system and engage in criminal activity in the United States.
The successful “Raging Bull’ sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
The operation is a “significant step towards dismantling and eradicating MS-13 in the United States and in El Salvador,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki, the second-ranking official at DOJ’s Criminal Division. El Salvador police also arrested 53 gang members in El Salvador.
Sixteen of the 214 arrestees in the United States are U.S. citizens. Five were legal immigrants.
Ninety-three of 214 arrestees are charged with federal or state criminal offenses and will face prison time in the United States, said Derek Benner, the deputy executive associate director of the Homeland Security Investigations division.
The group of 214 include 193 illegal aliens, including 121 arrestees who will be deported but will not face criminal charges.
“Definitely some UACs end up being bad people and enter the country to do bad things,” said Homan, who is serving as acting ICE director and was nominated on Tuesday by Trump to head the agency. “That’s why we asked for several policy changes in [the requests] we sent to the Hill.”
Criminal charges against the 214 gang-members include racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in the furtherance of racketeering. According to Rybicki, an entire eight-man MS-13 “clique” (a local division of a gang) was arrested in the operation. This “Sailors Clique” operated in suburban Maryland, a hotspot of MS-13 activity, and has been linked to at least three murders.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions bemoaned in October, gang members and other unworthy illegal aliens often use the United States’s generous asylum policies to tie up their cases in administrative proceedings, often needing only a “credible claim” of persecution in their home country to avoid deportation for years.
Operation Raging Bull carries on a series of nationwide and international efforts against the brutal gang. In July, Attorney General Sessions went to El Salvador to announce nearly 600 arrests in that country. Earlier in the summer, ICE’s “Operation Matador” netted dozens of arrests in the United States.
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