WASHINGTON — MS-13 has been the target of law enforcement agencies nationwide - a deadly gang which Greg Nevano of the Department of Homeland Security describes as:
“Henious. Brutal. Violent.”
In Maryland this week, the FBI unveiled charges for 24 suspects after a two year investigation, all of whom had ties to MS-13. Charges range from extortion to kidnapping, drug trafficking and murder.
"Some of the facts of the indictment include people being struck with machetes, people once they're murdered being dismembered. One particular victim had his heart cut out,” said U.S attorney Robert K. Hur.
It’s this type of brutality President Trump has honed in on in many speeches including when he said in July 2017, “We’re going to destroy the vile criminal cartel MS-13.”
He tweeted about MS-13 this week, and praised the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
But some critics say ICE, and the Trump administration as a whole, is going about tackling the MS-13 problem all wrong by targeting immigrants trying to flee gang violence, not be a part of it.
“It is not targeting MS-13. It is targeting people who are seeking asylum in this country, who are seeking to work and support their families,” said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
In an interview Thursday, Bier said border patrol numbers show how only a small percentage of border patrol apprehensions have MS-13 affiliations. In 2018, it was about 0.11%.
“In context that’s about 99.9 percent of the population arrested by border patrol are not MS-13,” Bier said.
But already inside the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 MS-13 members - a small percentage of the 1.4 million gang members overall.