MS-13 Targeted in Massachusetts

Vaughan: Take back the streets from immigrant gangs

By Jessica Vaughan

The recent enforcement action carried out by the Boston office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose agents swooped through several area towns to arrest 36 members of the notoriously violent street gang MS-13, has touched off a storm of protest among local immigrant advocacy groups. These groups have berated local police for cooperating with ICE, and launched “training sessions” across the state to discourage immigrants from cooperating with law enforcement.

“We understand trying to remove violent people, but in doing so you end up terrorizing communities,” said the director of Centro Presente, a Cambridge non-profit. Yet judging from the criminal histories of the gangbangers arrested by ICE, it is pretty clear just who has been terrorizing whom.

No random street sweep, the latest operation was carefully planned and executed over three days with the assistance of 12 other law enforcement agencies, mostly local police and sheriffs. It is part of a long-term nationwide ICE effort, known as Operation Community Shield, to identify and remove criminal alien gangsters. All those arrested were members of MS-13, and had rap sheets for crimes such as murder, assault and battery, armed robbery, and drug offenses. All but four were illegal aliens and now face removal. The others were permanent residents whose criminal histories are likely serious enough to cost them their green cards.For a long time, gangs in Massachusetts were strictly a local affair. In recent years, however, national gangs such as Crips and Bloods have entered the scene, as well as the transnational MS-13, which originated among the large illegal alien communities of El Salvadorans in southern California. It began aggressively expanding its franchises in the early 1990s, migrating eastward. Its membership is now believed to number 10,000 in the United States, and possibly 50,000 more in Central America and Mexico.

Illegal alien gangsters typically are employed by day in construction, auto repair, or other blue collar work, but moonlight at night in retail drug trafficking, theft, extortion, or mob-style violence. Some have had paramilitary training in their home countries and are hardened veterans of the chronic civil strife in their homelands. Their victims tend to be fellow immigrants, as the gangsters know that many newcomers bring with them a distrust of police, and hope they will hesitate to seek help.