Trump said at a speech before the National Rifle Association Friday in Atlanta:
“MS-13, you know about MS-13? It’s not pleasant for them anymore. That’s a bad group. Not pleasant for MS-13 — get them the hell out of here, right? Get them out.”
But the truth about the gang, the first street gang is more complicated. Experts say using MS-13 to justify cracking down on undocumented immigrants could actually make the gang stronger.
Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, is strongest in Central America, especially El Salvador, but the criminal enterprise extends across the US in cities like Los Angeles, New York and the Washington, DC, region.
MS-13 began in Los Angeles in the 1980s during a flood of Salvadorians fleeing to the US. Its offshoot in Central America took hold when many of the members were deported by the US back home. It’s unknown how much of the Central American strength of MS-13 was homegrown, but a Congressional Research Service analysis found MS-13’s ranks were continuously strengthened by deportees from the US returning home, as members migrated to the US.
The Trump administration has spotlighted MS-13 as a sort of public enemy No. 1. with Trump tweeting:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Long Island, New York, on Friday to call attention further to the gang, calling MS-13 “one of the gravest threats to American public safety,” adding:
“We cannot continue with this transporting across our border, illegal immigrants who have not been properly vetted and actually are part of criminal organizations. The MS-13 motto is ‘kill, rape, and control. That should tell us enough about the kind of group that we confront.”
In an interview this month with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Sessions blamed the Obama administration for a rise in MS-13, saying a large number of the gang members are undocumented immigrants, including some minors.