President Donald Trump made a misleading claim about a gang on Tuesday and vowed to enforce policies that may have aided the criminal organization's international rise.
"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.," Trump tweeted. "We are removing them fast!"
There are two problems with the this tweet, Martin Flores, an expert on gangs, told ATTN:.
Flores, who has 20 years experience working with gang intervention and education groups in Southern California, said that the first issue is the suggestion that President Barack Obama's immigration policies are to blame for the proliferation of MS-13 – an transnational criminal organization founded by mostly Salvadoran immigrants fleeing civil war in Central America in the 1980s.
"That's bullshit," Flores said of Trump's tweet. "This gang has been here way before Obama was even an organizer. To try to put any sort of blame linking Obama and MS-13 is a far out lie."
The second is the implication that quickly removing MS-13 members from the country is an effective strategy for derailing the gang.
In the 1990s, enhanced deportation policies may have actually contributed to the the group's international rise. During that time, in an effort to eradicate gangs like MS-13, the federal government ramped up deportations of undocumented immigrants. But the increased enforcement meant that low-level offenders who were deported were soon caught up in criminal justice systems abroad. In turn, these prisons served as de facto recruitment centers, allowing the gangs to grow and organize. According to the Justice Department, MS-13 has a presence in at least 46 states today,
The Trump administration's increased immigration enforcement proposals sound eerily similar to those introduced in the 1990s, Flores said.
"Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a speech Tuesday. "These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation, and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate."
Sessions claimed in the speech that MS-13 has benefited from "open border and years of lax immigration enforcement."