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What's Behind the Rise of MS-13?

The street gang that stalks the suburbs of Long Island has become a focus of President Trump’s efforts to link immigration and crime.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a press conference in Hauppauge, N.Y., where he vowed to take action against the MS-13 street gang.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a press conference in Hauppauge, N.Y., where he vowed to take action against the MS-13 street gang.Frank Eltman/AP

On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced one of its biggest operations since the beginning of the Trump administration: The agency reported that a recent six-week “gang surge” by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) had netted 1,378 arrests. According the ICE press release:

The activities of transnational gangs—crime organizations that may have roots in one country and but operate across the borders of several—have become a focus of the federal government’s efforts to associate immigration with criminality, with a particular emphasis on the street gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. In March, several MS-13 members were indicted for a string of killings in Long Island, New York. The grisly murders made national headlines and have made the faces of MS-13 members in El Salvador—often heavily tattooed—a staple of media reports. President Donald Trump invokes MS-13 in his speeches, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Long Island on April 28, in which he pledged to escalate the federal response to MS-13. “We’ll find them, dismantle their networks, and deport them,” he promised.