- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Since there are about 5,000 members of the murderous Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang in the Washington area, it’s hard to get too excited about the apprehension of 11 in the past few weeks. Still, the announcement Monday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested more than 1,000 gang members nationwide so far this year is good news.

Originally intended to dismantle only the MS-13 gang, ICE’s anti-gang initiative, Operation Community Shield, extended its mission in May to track more than 80 violent street gangs in 30 states. Almost all of these gangs consist of illegal aliens from Central and Latin American, though a few, like the Asian Boyz and the Jamaican Posse, reveal that the problem is global. Of the 1,000 gang members who have been arrested this year, 90 percent have been illegal aliens. Suspects were caught in nearly every major U.S. city, as well as in the rural areas of Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. “We’re just getting started,” said Marcy Forman, ICE’s director of investigations. Let’s hope so. Street gangs now account for 93 percent of all homicides in which organized crime is the suspected cause, according to the FBI.

The problem also casts a dark shadow over immigration policies, although we needed no further evidence. Immigration enthusiasts often argue that the majority of illegal aliens come to this country to find honest work. The problem is that while most are not associated with criminal organizations like MS-13, many are indebted to them. The influence of such gangs begins in Central and Latin America, where the strongest control the migration routes north to the United States. Honest immigrants often must cooperate with them to enter the country; young illegals who can’t find work often turn to their violent benefactors. Many of Monday’s suspects had prior arrests or had already been deported.

The influence MS-13 wields in border crossings has led to speculation of a connection to the al Qaeda terror network. As Jerry Seper reported last fall in this paper, a top al Qaeda lieutenant is believed to have met with MS-13 officials to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border. In February, former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy suggested to a Senate committee that al Qaeda may have targeted the MS-13’s smuggling operations to gain entry to this country.

Containment policies like Community Shield are valuable tools, especially to local and state law enforcers. Ms. Forman did, though, say ICE was “just getting started.” We plan to hold ICE to those words.

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