WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
28 Jul 2017 | Press Release

The Trump Administration’s Approach to MS-13 is Counterproductive

Seven Facts About MS-13 and Recommendations on How to Tackle Gang Violence

Washington, DC—Today President Trump is expected to make a hardline immigration and law enforcement policy speech in Long Island, N.Y., doubling down on his administration’s plans to stamp out the MS-13 street gang in the United States. The statement is expected to link immigration and gang-related violence.

While crimes and violence perpetrated by MS-13 and other gangs must be addressed, indiscriminate immigration enforcement is counterproductive, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization with decades of experience on security issues in Central America and migration to the United States.

See WOLA’s Seven Facts About MS-13

The MS-13 gang is a threat in specific communities in the United States. It targets vulnerable populations, especially undocumented immigrants who may now be afraid to go to the police for fear of deportation,” said Adriana Beltran, Senior Associate for Citizen Security at WOLA. “In ignoring the facts and nuances about street gangs, the administration risks implementing policies that hinder law enforcement’s ability to effectively address gang violence at home and in Central America.

The Trump administration has also linked the arrival of Central American migrant children to gang activity. However, of all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the southwest border since 2011, 0.02 percent were either suspected or confirmed to have ties to gangs in their home country, according to U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla Provost. While a small percentage of recently-arrived minors are targeted for recruitment, local law enforcement and gang violence prevention experts say that the way forward is not to ramp up deportations, but to improve social services that have been deeply cut and foster trust between police and immigrant communities.

Statements linking Central American immigrants with MS-13 are misleading—they stigmatize immigrants and Latino populations by associating immigration with crime,” Beltrán added.