U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to El Salvador on Thursday to talk about gang violence. "I hope so", he said Friday, trying to turn the corner from a week of sour performance reviews from his boss.
Immigrant advocates on Long Island have accused the president of politicizing the MS-13 gang problem to justify a crackdown on all undocumented immigrants.
You're hearing a lot about MS-13 right now because it's the latest item on Donald Trump's agenda.
The danger posed by MS-13 may be one of the few issues where Sessions and President Donald Trump are presently in sync: As Sessions meets with his counterparts overseas, Trump spent part of Friday talking about the gang in Long Island, where it has been implicated in grisly murders.
The Republican president spoke before an audience of law enforcement officers and assailed the MS-13 street gang, which his administration has made a symbol of the need for stricter immigration laws.
The president battered Sessions for days with a series of tweets calling him weak and ineffective, his discontent centered on Sessions' decision months ago to recuse himself from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russian Federation.
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan told reporters "targeting, arresting, and removing members of violent street gangs sends a clear message to criminal enterprises around the world: You are not welcome in the United States and you will find no harbor here". The Obama administration's Treasury Department sanctioned the gang in 2012 as a transnational criminal organization.
But alarm about the gang has grown as it has preyed on largely suburban, immigrant communities.
"The criteria used to identify and list somebody into this gang database is very broad, ranging from "self-admission" to clothing, tattoos, associating or corresponding with other "known gang members, ' and being identified as a gang member by a 'reliable source, '" he continued".
Insight Crime, a website covering public safety in Latin America, said that analysis showed: "a high percentage of modern weapons in the region's most violent countries originate in the United States, suggesting as more civil war era weapons are decommissioned, many will be replaced by arms trafficking networks from north of the border".
Federal authorities have announced the arrests of hundreds of suspected MS-13 gang members in recent months, but that claim of getting rid of MS-13 members "by the thousands" may be an exaggeration.
Zach Terwilliger, who prosecuted gangs in the Eastern District of Virginia before taking a position in the deputy attorney general's office, found that to be true in some of his cases.
The DOJ has also "revitalized the Institutional Hearing Program, which brings immigration judges to Bureau Prisons facilities to adjudicate the immigration status of federal criminal alien inmates while they're incarcerated", resulting in quicker deportations after criminals finish serving sentences in USA prisons.
"We want to see changes", she said. He and leaders of the department's criminal division traveled with Sessions. He met members of a transnational anti-gang task force and pledged his support for El Salvador's Attorney General Douglas Melendez, congratulating him on charges laid over the last two days against more than 700 gang members, many of them from MS-13.
The Clinton administration subsequently deported over 20,000 imprisoned and undocumented gang members to El Salvador, leading to major warfare between MS-13 and another USA -born gang, Barrio 18.
Sessions recalled early conversations he had with Trump about the gang. Trump then crafted an executive order in the first weeks of his presidency, directing the Justice Department to go after transnational gangs, and Sessions was eager to make it a priority.