Trump and MS-13
US president Donald Trump spent a considerable amount of time on Tuesday talking about the Central American gang MS-13. Trump uses the gang as the reason ICE needs additional resources and enforcement authority and as a reason to limit the entrance of asylum seekers including women and children from Central America.
Donald Trump doesn't really know much about MS-13. But the investigators at InsightCrime and RevistaFactum do. So it's important to read their recent article Why Trump is Wrong to Blame Migration for MS13 Expansion, Violence at the InsightCrime website.
Make no mistake about it. MS-13 gang members are dangerous. They kill and dismember and threaten innocent people who live in the neighborhoods they control. They do this in the US, but their violence is much more a plague on communities in El Salvador. Thousands of migrants are not MS-13 members, but are fleeing to avoid becoming their next victims.
The InsightCime article points out that these issues are much more complex than Trump and Jeff Sessions would have you believe:
The Trump administration has used the MS13 as a bogeyman to draw support for its policy of searching out and deporting more undocumented migrants. The UAC [unaccompanied child migrant]-gang connection is at the heart of the political rhetoric justifying this policy preference.
But the relationship of MS13 to migration is complex.
While there is clearly some communication, coordination and, in some instances, intent to commit criminal acts across borders, there is little to suggest that the migration of members and potential recruits is controlled in a top-down, coordinated fashion. And while there appears to be a disproportionate number of UAC’s involved in recent gang activities, they represent a tiny fraction of the total UAC population....
Gang members move for the same reasons that non-gang members move. These push-pull factors range from family and economic reasons to security and legal concerns. Gang members are just as susceptible to these pressures as their compatriots, and migrate for the same, complex variety of reasons that other migrants do.
There is no evidence that gangs determine or finance international migration. While gang experts pushed this idea of coordination and even “coaching,” InSight Crime has not encountered any evidence that gang leaders are making the final determination or financing this migration.
Indeed, migration is normally the domain of the family, an intimate, multi-party decision that has ripple effects across various generations, numerous academic studies show. And while the gang replaces this family in some respects, in others it remains an outsider. Migration appears to be one of those subjects.If you really wanted to limit the growth and strength of MS-13, you would not do it with immigration crackdowns argues Sarah Garland in President Trump's Immigration Crackdown Will Only Make the MS-13 Gang Stronger. Instead, she points out, you need to address the underlying causes the gang gets a foothold in marginalized immigrant communities in the US: impoverished neighborhoods with overcrowded, segregated and under-resourced schools struggling to cope with violence. It is the same recipe for El Salvador where the gang problem won't be solved with heavy-handed Mano Dura repression, but with community-focused efforts to address root causes of marginalization.