By: Allen Smith

During the 2018 State of the Union address, President Trump compared the crime syndicate Mara Salvatrucha commonly referred to as MS-13 and other criminal activities to all illegal immigrants; A sharp and hateful comparison that is unfound and xenophobic. To imply that all illegal immigrants are violent criminals is ludicrous; large portions of these migrants are leaving dangerous crime ridden cities in their own countries. The Long Island Police Department stated these children are far more likely to be the gang’s victims than its members.

Supporters of President Trump’s remarks will point to ICE’s arrest of nearly 800 MS-13 members in 2017, 241 of which “were seized for administrative reasons for the purpose of removal because they are illegally in the country,” but how these 241 individuals were linked to MS-13 is relevant to the argument. Being associated with a gang or being a gang member requires two out of eight pieces of criteria to be met. These include frequenting an area that is a known gang hangout which could very well be a public park and wearing ‘gang’ apparel which again can be mass produced clothing like a t-shirt.

“We’ve seen young people labeled as gang members because they are wearing a t-shirt and a teacher at a school who is not a trained expert thought they overheard something,” said Walter Barrientos, the organizing director of immigrant advocacy group Make The Road on Long Island, New York. Barrientos is located where a large fraction of MS-13’s members live.

“We’ve seen young people wearing a t-shirt that other young people are wearing and because they happen to be an immigrant or Central American, that has been used as evidence against them,” Barrientos added.

The simple fact of the matter is that the majority of gang members within the US are not illegal immigrants, most are American citizens but the majority of MS-13 members are foreign nationals from Mexico and El Salvador, who are living in the United States illegally.

Gangs and their criminal activity must be dealt with swiftly to protect law abiding citizens near and far. We cannot allow for them to exist within vulnerable communities and enlist the youth to conduct criminal activities and mischief. No criminal organization should be allow to operate freely and unmolested from the justice of law and order.

The President declared a goal of completely eradicating MS-13, which he claimed had grown its ranks within the United States by exploiting the “weak borders and lax immigration enforcement” allowed by previous administrations.

I agree that no criminal organization should be allow to exist within the United States especially one where the majority of its members are here illegally, but to compare “8,000 to 10,000 [MS-13 members] of whom reside in the United States” to the 11 million illegal immigrants who are generally law abiding is disgraceful.


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