Who is the bigger threat to America: MS-13 or white supremacists?
via AP

Who is the bigger threat to America: MS-13 or white supremacists?

#MS13IsDeadly
#WhiteSupremacyKills
Join the conversation and vote below

President Trump has made combatting MS-13 a priority of his administration, but some argue Trump overstates the threat MS-13 actually poses to American communities. While MS-13 is a dangerous street gang, white supremacist groups have been on the rise and were "directly responsible" for a majority of "extremist-related murders" in the U.S. last year. Not to mention the Aryan Brotherhood, which is responsible for almost a third of prison murders. Is the threat of MS-13 exaggerated?

1 month Until Voting Ends
#MS13IsDeadly
#WhiteSupremacyKills

President Trump recently said of MS-13 gang members: "These aren't people. These are animals." 

“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we're stopping a lot of them, but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are," Trump said. "These aren't people. These are animals."

Watch the full clip below:

Trump has made combating Mara Salvatrucha—MS-13 for short—a priority of his administration. The El Salvadorian street gang has an estimated 30,000 members worldwide, including more than 10,000 in the United States, and is known for its over-the-top violence.

The Trump administration held a roundtable to discuss the threat of MS-13 to American communities and how to stop the problem from getting worse. The White House also released an MS-13 fact sheet that outlines the dangers of the gang and how it relates to immigration and border security.

MS-13 recruits through our broken immigration system, violating our borders. And it just comes right through — whenever they want to come through, they come through. It’s much tougher now since we’ve been there, but we need much better border mechanisms and much better border security. 

While Trump is known for exaggerating the truth, he's not wrong in categorizing MS-13 as a particularly dangerous street gang. Tracing its roots back to Los Angeles in the 1980s, MS-13 was created so Salvadorian refugees arriving in the U.S. could defend themselves against black and Mexican gangs. What began as a small street gang has since grown into a multi-national group known for terrorizing communities and participating in especially gruesome behaviors.

In September, 2016, Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, aged fifteen and sixteen, were found dead in Brentwood, killed with machetes and baseball bats and mutilated beyond recognition. Thirteen members of MS-13, seven of whom had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, were charged in their deaths.

MS-13 expert Carlos García describes the gang as closer to a family than a business, "They sell drugs, buy weapons, and engage in extortion, but they don’t have elaborate financial ambitions. It’s not comparable to a Mexican or Colombian cartel." But MS-13 holds the distinction of being the only street gang to be named a “transnational criminal organization" by the U.S. government.

Johnathan Blitzer of The New Yorker points out that it is fellow immigrants who actually bear the brunt of MS-13's violence, and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies only further harm those who wish to distance themselves from MS-13.

Many of the victims of MS-13 on Long Island are immigrants themselves, and a large number of them came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The gangsters and their victims live together in the same towns, go to the same schools, and vie for the same jobs; their lives are thoroughly enmeshed.

But the Trump administration has argued that discerning who may or may not be affiliated with the dangerous gang is an almost impossible task, hence the administration's decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 200,000 Salvadorian immigrants. MS-13 is almost universally considered the most dangerous gang in the world, and they can not be allowed to terrorize American communities any longer.

John Cronan, acting assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Criminal Division, put it:

[Because] MS-13 largely directs its murderous mission from prisons in El Salvador, it is not enough to enforce our domestic violent crime laws against gang members in the United States. To effectively combat transnational organized crime, we also need enforcement of our immigration laws. The reason MS-13 is so massive in our country, the reason why they have 10,000 members in 40 states and the District of Columbia, is because many of those gang members have illegally entered our country.

But critics argue the Trump administration is greatly overstating MS-13's impact for political gain. MS-13 acts as the perfect boogeyman for the Trump administration—a terrifying gang known for face tattoos, human trafficking, and excessive violence—but in reality, MS-13 has not "taken over American communities" as Trump claims. The Trump administration is trying to scare people with MS-13 threats in order to push through anti-immigrant policies that hurt people who have absolutely nothing to do with MS-13.

Trump claimed in May that the gang had “literally taken over towns and cities” across the U.S. This is hyperbole, at best. DOJ estimates there were about 10,000 MS-13 members spread throughout the country as of last month, representing about 1 percent of the total number of criminally active gang members nationwide (a category that includes “violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs,” according to the FBI).

Sen. Kamala Harris accused Trump of "scapegoating" and "fearmongering" in his State of the Union address, in which he included MS-13 in his discussion of DREAMers.

“MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews after Trump’s address. “To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible, and it was scapegoating, and it was fearmongering, and it was wrong.”

More importantly, while Trump has rightfully come down hard on the violence exhibited by MS-13, he has yet to do the same for white supremacist groups. After violence erupted in Charlottesville between white supremacists and protesters, leaving Heather Heyer dead, President Trump infamously declared "both sides" were to blame and there were "very fine people" among the white supremacists. 

It took Trump days to denounce KKK leader David Duke during his campaign, and Trump has a disturbing history of cozying up to white nationalists. It seems unlikely that Trump would grant the same moral ambiguity to MS-13.

While white supremacist groups may not be as sensational as MS-13, they are just as violent and were responsible for the majority of "extremist-related deaths" in 2017. White supremacy has been on the rise in the U.S. for years. The Ku Klux Klan alone has some 130 groups with between 5,000 and 8,000 members nationwide, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"While it is impossible to draw a direct line of causation between these brutal acts and the many public displays of white supremacy that took place around the country in 2017,” Greenblatt wrote, "it’s critical not to underestimate the effect of an increasingly visible alt-right and white-supremacist community on people who are already predisposed to racism."

While the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, makes up a small percentage of inmates around the country, they are responsible for nearly one-third of all murders within state and federal prisons.

In a 1992 study from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Brotherhood constituted less than one-tenth of a percent of the inmate population in the federal system — yet they were responsible for 18 percent of all its homicides. In 1999, an FBI agent said under oath that the figure was closer to 25 percent.

As white supremacy continues to grow in the U.S. and abroad, it is clear that it poses a bigger threat to American communities than MS-13, and the Trump administration should take the threat seriously.

Share

More from The Tylt

Is President Trump serious about combating gun violence?
Is President Trump serious about combating gun violence?
Politics
Is it wrong to belittle 'thoughts and prayers'?
Is it wrong to belittle 'thoughts and prayers'?
Politics
Does Tomi Lahren deserve all the hate?
Does Tomi Lahren deserve all the hate?
Politics