2005 October 31 Monday
MS-13 Gang Uses Deportation As Free Trips Home For Visits

Members of the Hispanic gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) use deportation as a handy way to get back down to El Salvador and visit with family and recruit more gang members before heading north again with their new recruits.

Of the 70 passengers, at least four are members of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a gang formed two decades ago near MacArthur Park west of the Los Angeles skyline.

For one of them, Melvin "Joker" Cruz-Mendoza, the trip is nothing new. This is his fourth deportation — the second this year.

Wiry with a shaved head, the 24-year-old pleaded guilty in separate felony robbery and drug cases in Los Angeles. "MS" covers his right forearm. Other tattoos are carved into the skin above his eyebrows.

In the last 12 years, U.S. immigration authorities have logged more than 50,000 deportations of immigrants with criminal records to Central America, including untold numbers of gang members like Cruz-Mendoza.

There's something obviously wrong and highly fixable with this picture.

"I think most of the police departments will agree that you're just getting them off the street for a couple of months," said FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker, who is coordinating investigations across North America, where the gang operates in a loose network of cells.

Deportations have helped create an "unending chain" of gang members moving between the U.S. and Central America, said Rodrigo Avila, El Salvador's vice minister of security.

How about trying felons for violating the law? Get deported as a felon. Come back the United States. Get caught. Go to jail for 5 years. Second time? 10 years. Third time? Longer still. This is not rocket science. It is basic law enforcement. Punish people for breaking the law. In fact, the law already exists for doing this:

After serving little more than a year in jail, Cruz-Mendoza was deported for a third time in January, records and interviews show.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested him in Arizona a month later. At that point, he could have been charged with a felony for reentering the country after deportation, which could have landed him in federal prison for as long as 20 years.

Law enforcement is a strong point with conservatives. The Bush Administration's failure to properly enforce immigration law even against felons is yet another piece of evidence that Bush is a faux conservative.

MS-13 members deported to El Salvador use their visits there to recruit more gang members and bring the gang members back north into the United States with them. So weak US border control and weak enforcement of immigration laws against repeat illegal entrants combined with deportations are together supporting the MS-13 membership recruitment operation.

The deportation revolving door is helping to feed the MS-13 franchise expansion operation into areas of the United States that do not have MS-13 cells. Your taxpayer dollars at work:

The move to the East Coast came after members met to work out which U.S. regions would be open to the new Salvadoran groups. With Southern California already claimed by existing cells, members agreed that Salvadoran branches could move to other parts of the U.S., according to gang members and U.S. law enforcement officials.

The article claims that the Washington DC area has 5000 MS-13 members. The franchise expansion is obviously proceeding apace while the Bush Administration and members of the US Senate continue to look for ways to pass a new immigration amnesty. Read the whole article. It is disgusting that the governing elites of the United States of America are letting this happen.

Update: An article by Al Valdez, an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney's office provides many details about Mara Salvatrucha.

Most of the Salvadorian refugees settled in the established Hispanic neighborhoods of the "Rampart" area of Los Angeles. However, Salvadorians were not readily accepted into the Los Angeles Hispanic community, and were frequently targeted by local Hispanic gangs. As a result, in the late 1980s, some refugees and refugee members of La Mara and FMNL formed what is now known as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) street gang in Los Angeles. Like many other street gangs, MS initially formed for protection, but quickly developed a reputation for being organized and extremely violent. MS membership continues to be fed by refugees from groups like FMNL.

Since its inception in California and Washington, DC, Mara Salvatrucha has expanded into Oregon, Alaska, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Canada, and Mexico. MS is unique in that, unlike traditional U.S. street gangs, it maintains active ties with MS members and factions in El Salvador. Mara Salvatrucha is truly an international gang.

Valdez says the MS-13 people send M-16s from El Salvador (where the rifles are cheaper) to the United States (where the rifles are more expensive). They also ship hand guns from the US to El Salvador because hand guns are harder to get there. So MS-13 are international traders who look for arbitrage opportunities and who try to make markets more efficient.

Looked at in this light the movement of MS-13 members into the US to spread out into every corner of America is an attempt to make criminal labor markets more efficient. Criminals are underutilized in El Salvador because there is not enough to steal and not enough people to brutalize and defraud. Libertarian Open Borders advocates should reflect upon some of the undesirable consequences of unfettered labor markets.

Update II: Mara Salvatrucha is also becoming more horizontally integrated and hierarchical in management structure.

Until recently, MS-13 wasn’t that big a player in East Coast gang culture. The reason for its weak position in the East Coast crime world was obvious: It wasn’t very well organized. MS-13 was comprised of a group of cliques that operated independently of each other.

No more. Law enforcement officials now report that gang members from across the country have come together to unite affiliated groups up and down the East Coast. The leadership for these cliques is now coming from as far away as California and even from El Salvador.

Robert Hart, senior agent in charge with the FBI, says that when individual groups of MS-13 unite, the results can be devastating. “The cliques, instead of operating independently of each other, are beginning to come together,” Hart explains. “The difference is by doing that, obviously you have a much tighter organization, much stronger structures and, instead of having various cliques doing whatever they want, wherever they want, there is one individual who is the leader and is able to control the payment of dues and the criminal acts they engage in. The result is very, very similar to what you would see in what we refer to as traditional organized criminal families.”

I know a guy who thinks Hispanic immigration is like Italian immigration and therefore fairly benign. Well, El Salvadoran immigration is looking more and more like Sicilian immigration.

Update II: In Central America the governments use tactics against the gangs that currently would not pass constitutional muster in the United States.

Honduran President Ricardo Maduro still has bitter memories of how his own son was kidnapped and killed by gang members in 1997, and has ordered a "zero tolerance" crackdown on gangs in his country. A law passed by the Honduran legislature makes illicit association a crime -- in other words, anyone looking like a gang member is arrested as a suspect.

El Salvador has a similar law, called the "Mano Dura," or Firm Hand, and now the "Super Mano Dura." But some human rights activists and even a former Honduran police commissioner, Maria Luisa Borjas, criticize the crackdown tactics as extreme and repressive.

But let the Hispanic gang problem get big enough and the populace of the United States will increasingly demand reinterpretations of the US Constitution to make harsher law enforcement tactics legal. The public will sacrifice freedom for safety. Open Border libertarians advocate a policy that will lead to conditions that will cause the American populace to put safety ahead of freedom.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 31 07:39 PM  Immigration Crime

Engineer-Poet said at October 31, 2005 7:57 PM:

I still think they should be "chipped" like pets before deportation, and their punishment for their crimes should include a suspended death sentence.  They come back, they get caught, they hang.  End of hero status, end of revolving door, end of problem.

So Very Bitter said at October 31, 2005 8:50 PM:

Heather Johnson in the City Journal digs into the subversive influence of the Mexican diplomatic corps in American politics. (I hope this has not been noted already.)

A sample:

Just how shameless is Mexico in promoting illegal entry into the U.S.? For starters, it publishes a comic book–style guide on breaching the border safely and evading detection once across. Mexico’s foreign ministry distributes the Guía del Migrante Mexicano (Guide for the Mexican Migrant) in Mexico; Mexican consulates along the border hand it out in the U.S. The pamphlet is also available on the website of the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, or IME (Institute for Mexicans Abroad), the cabinet-level agency that promotes Mexicanismo in the U.S.

Nodding to U.S. law, the guide does briefly remind readers that “mechanisms for legal entry” into the U.S. exist and are the surest way to get in. But the book primarily consists of “practical advice” for entering illegally: do drink salt water and cross when the heat is lowest; don’t wear heavy clothing when fording a river. Do keep your coyote in sight; don’t send your children across the border with strangers—a Mexican variation on the usual parental advice. And don’t “throw rocks or objects at officials or at patrols since this is considered a provocation by those officials.” (This last piece of advice clearly hasn’t taken hold: attacks on the border patrol have steadily increased in number and viciousness.)

The guide’s recommendations on how to avoid detection once in the U.S. are equally no-nonsense: do keep your daily routines stable, to avoid calling attention to yourself; don’t engage in domestic violence—the Marvel comic–type illustration shows a macho man, biceps bulging, socking a woman a big one in the jaw. Don’t drink and drive because it could result in deportation if you’re arrested.

Mexico backs up the publication with serious resources for the collective assault on the border. An elite law enforcement team called Grupo Beta protects illegal migrants as they sneak into the U.S. from corrupt Mexican officials and criminals—essentially pitting two types of Mexican lawlessness against each other. Grupo Beta currently maintains aid stations for Mexicans crossing the desert. In April, it worked with Mexican federal and Sonoran state police to help steer illegal aliens away from Arizona border spots patrolled by Minutemen border enforcement volunteers—demagogically denounced by President Vicente Fox as “migrant-hunting groups.”

Follow the link, if you want to be even more dismayed. . . .

Rob said at November 1, 2005 4:46 AM:

I live in virginia, and how the political class treats the what 10-11 million Mxican (and other) felons living here is an issue. I've fought hard with myself, but I'm voting Republican on it. If there is no operation wetback, I think that the republicans will lose my vote forever. I'll vote 3rd party or stay home.

Marvin said at November 1, 2005 5:50 AM:

Border security should not be a Democrat or Republican issue. It should be an american issue that concerns all americans. Why is the media so quiet about this? It should be on page one of every US newspaper every day of the week.

seelow heights said at November 1, 2005 6:33 AM:

It's because the American identity has been "deconstructed" during the long(and still continuing) Cultural Revoltion that began in the sixties. The media are embarrassed (if not outright hostile) to US history pre-1965. You know the drill, (even Rush Limbaugh repeats it): America is historically guilty of racism, sexism, genocide of the Amerindians, etc. American nationalism is therefore illegitimate and anyone who crosses the border (whether legally or illegally) has just as much right to be here as a disabled, decorated veteran whose ancestors fought in every war America ever fought since the Revolution. The media are thoroughly committed to PeeCee and the Multiculturalist ideology, even at the price of national destruction. After all, what was is worth saving about a country whose Father was a slaveholder? The only answer is to construct an entirely new country with entirely (almost) new people .

Kurt said at November 1, 2005 11:10 AM:

Any non-citizen who commits a violent crime should be deported automatically. If such a person returns and commits another violent crime, the person should be automatically deported again. If he returns a third time and commits another violent crime, the person should be locked up for life.

Bob Badour said at November 2, 2005 1:03 PM:

Kurt, I assume you mean deported the very moment they are released from doing the hard time they deserve. I say: Take the handcuffs off at the border, hand them their package of personal effects, and let them keep the orange jumpsuit as a souvenir.

seelow heights said at November 2, 2005 3:06 PM:

The current system is set up to make deportation difficult.
Tancredo was quoted as saying he would not pursue impeachment because that “his immigration reform bill [H.R. 3333] will do what is necessary to stem the flow of illegal aliens into the U.S.” [Tancredo won't initiate Bush impeachment, By Ron Strom, September 2, 2005]
But Tancredo’s H.R. 3333 does absolutely nothing to break the immigration litigation log-jam and deport aliens through summary removal.
In fact, H.R. 3333 goes in exactly the opposite direction—by hiring more government attorneys to appear in EOIR Immigration Court hearings. [Section 207]

The problem is that there are too many lawyers involved in alien deportation already—not too few.


You think that when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent finds a convicted criminal alien resident (“green card” holder) who is removable for immigration violations, the alien gets deported right away, right?


This is what really happens: Most arrested aliens are entitled to remain in the Untied States during years of litigation before the EOIR—an agency within U.S. Department of Justice—the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, and even (on occasions) before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The process of deporting illegal aliens and criminal aliens from the United States is far from being a system of summary removal.Like just about everything else in America these days, it has been condemned to slow death by lawyers and federal judges—rigged in favor of relief from removal through endless federal litigation.

sword6 said at March 13, 2006 1:52 AM:

i say treat illegal immigration as an invasion and fill the grand canyon with their rotting corpses.

Alex said at April 19, 2006 8:00 AM:

I think if there is any more heat, the mexican mafia themselves, will exterminate the ms13.

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