- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2017

Secure borders and efforts to deter gang recruitment will be key to the Justice Department’s strategy to reduce gang violence like that wrought by MS-13, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday during a visit to Long Island, New York.

Gang members’ ability to sneak across the border and to entice new recruits once they enter the United States are undermining efforts to keep communities safe, said the attorney general, highlighting the MS-13 gang-related homicides that had recently occurred in the Central Islip area he visited.

“We cannot continue with this transporting across out border, illegal immigrants who have not been properly vetted and actually are part of criminal organizations,” Mr. Sessions said. “This is a fundamental requirement of a lawful society.”

Authorities believe that at least 11 homicides in the Central Islip and nearby Brentwood communities that have occurred since August 2016 are gang-related — including four young men found brutally slain in a local park this month.

Mr. Sessions lamented the fact that gang members have sought to exploit the immigration system, with members allowed into the United States as unaccompanied minors. Under then-President Barack Obama’s policies, unaccompanied minors caught by immigration authorities were not sent back across the border, but rather are shuttled among various federal agencies until they are eventually delivered to their parents, other relatives or sponsor families in the U.S.

“If they come as undocumented minors, the federal government transports them wherever in the interior they say they’d like to go,” Mr. Sessions said Friday. “The bad guys know how this system works, and they have exploited it.”

Improving security of the U.S.-Mexico border and dismantling the human smuggling rings that transport people illegally across is essential to long-term efforts decrease crime committed by criminal organizations, the attorney general said.

“If we don’t do this, their leadership will simply send new emissaries and recruiters back to the United States to replace the ones we take off the streets,” Mr. Sessions said.

But another issue confronted by law enforcement is the recruitment of young people into criminal gangs. Gang experts note that recent immigrants are often targeted by gangs for recruitment.

“We know that gangs aren’t content to simply ruin the lives of adults — they recruit in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools. They recruit unaccompanied minors coming into this country,” Mr. Sessions said.

He stressed that efforts to educate young people and their families about gangs and prevention efforts is critical.

“We must do more to send a clear message to our young people: For the sake of your lives and your futures, stay away from gangs, drugs and violent crime,” Mr. Sessions said.

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