U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have arrested more than 1,300 gang members, associates and illegal aliens in 23 cities across 19 states as part of a national law-enforcement operation targeting America’s violent street gangs.
Assisted by state, local and international law-enforcement officers, ICE spearheaded the three-month enforcement initiative that targeted Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, Surenos-13, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips and Vatos Locos.
“Violent foreign-born gang members represent a threat to communities across the nation,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE.
“Violent foreign-born gang members and their associates have more than worn out their welcome, and to them I have one message: good riddance.”
Of the 1,313 arrested in the summer raids, 343 have a violent criminal history. ICE agents arrested 374 on new criminal charges ranging from drug, assault and firearms violations to charges of re-entering the country after deportation. The rest have been accused of immigration violations and were placed in deportation proceedings.
“Operation Community Shield” has accounted for the arrest of 7,655 gang members and associates since its inception in 2005.
The operation, Mrs. Myers said, is aimed at disrupting and dismantling transnational violent street gangs with the federal government using its immigration and customs authorities. It is the first time the federal government has used immigration and customs authorities in a combined, national campaign against criminal street gangs.
Mrs. Myers said that since the operation’s inception, more than 700 street gangs have been targeted. Of those arrested, she said, 107 were gang leaders, many of whom will be or have been prosecuted criminally and removed from the United States.
She said 2,444 have been charged criminally, while 5,211 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal.
The FBI has said 10,000 MS-13 members are in the United States, although other estimates range as high as 30,000. The largest concentrations are in California, Virginia, Maryland and New York. The FBI has put the MS-13 membership in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at about 50,000.