Mara Salvatrucha 13, known colloquially as MS-13, is a criminal gang with significant operations in the United States and Central America’s “Northern Triangle” – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Known for full-body tattoos and extreme violence, the gang is also suspected of engaging in transnational illicit enterprises across Australia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Peru and South Korea. Its official motto is “Kill, Rape, Control.”
At the end of October 2018, President Trump suggested that one of the reasons the migrant caravan, camped out on the U.S./Mexico border, presents a threat to Americans is that it has been infiltrated by MS-13 gang members. However, the mainstream media derisively laughed off any suggestions that gang members might have joined the caravan in order to use it for cover.
On October 23, 2018, Politico accused the president of “whipping up a frenzy” on the migrant caravan. Meanwhile, on October 25, the Washington Post “Fact Checker” segment ran a piece titled “A Caravan of Phony Claims from the Trump Administration” claiming that the President’s assertions about the migrant convoy and gang infiltrators are nothing more than “outlandish claims.”
Well, it turns out President Trump’s claims were neither frenzied nor outlandish:
On November 28, 2018, the Border Patrol announced that it had arrested Honduran caravanner Jose Villalobos-Jobel who illegally entered the United States near the Calexico port of entry. By his own admission, Villalobos is an active member of MS-13.
Crippling loopholes in our laws have enabled MS-13 gang members and other criminals to infiltrate our communities - and Democrats in Congress REFUSE to close these loopholes, including the disgraceful practice known as Catch-and-Release. Democrats must abandon their resistance... pic.twitter.com/VkMCIzwt8v— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
Shortly thereafter, on November 30, 2018, the Border Patrol announced that it apprehended Wuilson Lazo-Ramos another Honduran MS-13 member who traveled with the caravan. Lazo entered the U.S. illegally, near Tucson. In addition to being a gang member, he was previously convicted of weapons offenses in Maricopa County, Arizona.
So, did the press acknowledge that the President was correct? No, on the morning of December 7, 2018, the Washington Post ran a piece titled, “Is MS-13 as Dangerous as Trump Suggests?”.
Written by two associate professors and a PhD candidate, at George Mason University, the article repeats the same clichéd arguments about MS-13:
- “[I]n the United States, MS-13 is a fragmented organization without a clear hierarchy,” consisting of nothing more than “a federation of teenage barrio”
- The decentralized nature of the gang, “limits collective action, making it difficult for them to carry out large-scale criminal activities and bring in steady revenue.”
- Therefore, it isn’t dangerous and President Trump is an alarmist xenophobe.
Of course, these types of mainstream media assertions don’t add up with anything that law enforcement and national security entities are saying about MS-13.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated MS-13 a transnational criminal organization. And The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point characterizes MS-13 as a “highly networked entity” and warns that it would be a mistake to consider it “disorganized.” Rather, it argues, “MS-13’s neo-feudal structure helps it adapt to shifting alliances and rivalries while leaving it free to exploit local opportunities.”
Far from “whipping up a frenzy” about the migrant caravan, President Trump is the first Chief Executive in decades to tell the unvarnished truth about the link between illegal migration and crime. And for that, he should be commended.
Matthew J. O’Brien writes for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).