The moment also calls for a renewed focus on the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America — the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which together represent the overwhelming source of migrants crossing our southern border. Unless we address the root causes driving migration from this region, any solutions focused solely on border protection and immigration enforcement will be insufficient.
.. It soon became evident that migration from Central America could not be resolved merely by stronger enforcement at the U.S. border, let alone by building a wall. Instead, we needed to tackle the drivers of migration: crime, violence, corruption and lack of opportunity. We knew the cost of investing in a secure and prosperous Central America was modest compared with the cost of allowing violence and poverty to fester.
In reality, MS-13 members make up a fraction of Border Patrol arrests and a small part of gang activity in the United States. While the group has committed brutal murders on Long Island, there is no evidence that the gang is increasingly sending members into the country.
.. Rather than a nationwide threat, the group is being used as a political tool used to “turbocharge the xenophobia that underlies the debate around immigration
.. MS-13 members, some 10,000 in number, make up less than 1 percent of the approximately 1.4 million gang members in the United States, according to F.B.I. estimates. Other gangs are several times larger... MS-13’s numbers are stagnant, too. While precise size estimates are hard to come by, authorities have used the same figure of about 10,000 members for over a decade. (The F.B.I. estimates the gang has between 30,000 and 50,000 members around the world.).. Far from menacing cities across the country, as Mr. Trump has suggested, the gang’s presence is concentrated in Long Island, Los Angeles and the region outside Washington... In addition, most MS-13 recruits are not migrants but teenagers who live in the United States and are alienated from their communities.. In those areas, the gang may be the only group that provides a sense of identity.. Policymakers in Central America have argued deporting criminals from the United States has exacerbated gang problems abroad, ultimately worsening crime in the United States... While MS-13 began in the 1980s as a small and unorganized street gang in Los Angeles, some evidence suggests the group expanded in Central America after the United States began deporting illegal immigrants — many with criminal backgrounds — with greater intensity in 1996. Experts have described this process as “exporting” American-style gang culture to Central America... Poor prison conditions in those countries may have also helped MS-13 become larger and better organized.. By 2008, law enforcement found evidence that MS-13 leaders in El Salvadoran prisons were ordering assassinations in Washington while making plans to unify gang groups in the United States.
“MS-13 was a gang fueled by deportation, not immigration,” Dr. Leap said.
.. Trump uses MS-13 as a political tool
At a rally last month in Nashville, Mr. Trump once again linked MS-13 to his political opponents. He has said on Twitter that Democrats are “weak on crime” along the border and are “protecting MS-13 thugs.”.. Mike Huckabee, tweeted an incendiary picture of MS-13 members, likening them to the campaign staff for Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader... MS-13 has entered the national conversation because of Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, not because it has become more threatening, Dr. Cruz said. Because of the gang’s association with Central American countries that Mr. Trump dislikes, “it’s the perfect group for him to blame,” he added.
Violence in Central America has caused a surge in families requesting asylum. The Trump administration has confirmed it’s looking at bold moves to discourage them. But separating moms from kids may prove too draconian, and difficult.
.. Advocates and many Democratic lawmakers this week have recoiled at the Trump administration’s proposed policy of separating mothers from their children. For their part, officials say the surge is so large that such a drastic policy is necessary.
“I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America from getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States,” Kelly told CNN earlier this week... It has also cut the number of refugees admitted to the United States each year to 50,000, down from 110,000... But Central American families seeking asylum at the border are not part of the refugee admissions program, scholars point out. According to US immigration law and international treaties, officials are obligated to give asylum-seekers due process and a hearing to consider their claims... “Is that what the US wants to be identified with around the world?” asks Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “If we want to deter this kind of migration, we might want to focus on the conditions that produce it, and on policies that are transformative in terms of those conditions…. Punishing, in effect, the victims of those conditions because they’re seeking protection seems to be literally perverse.”.. It is reportedly drafting plans to cut billions of dollars from agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides relief after natural disasters, in order to fund its expanded crackdowns on undocumented immigrants.. Officials have now been instructed to prosecute parents of unaccompanied minors for the crime of human trafficking. Critics consider this deterrent effort, too, a severe blow to those attempting to unify their families, or even save their children’s lives.
.. Supporters of the president’s immigration policies, too, note that the nation’s obligations to asylum-seekers are often easily abused... “An important problem is, a lot of time there are adults bringing kids with them, but they are not their own kids, and they are sort of rent-a-child operations,”.. “Because under Obama, if you had a kid with you, it was almost an automatic ticket to being let go”.. These TV and radio announcements warned people that they would be sent back if they tried to enter the country.“Well, that wasn’t true,”
.. Part of the reason for this surge in immigrants, most of them from Central America, continues to be the ongoing gang violence in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which have some of the world’s highest murder rates for nations not at war.
.. in years past the surge of asylum seekers from Central America included a large number of unaccompanied teenagers. Now she mostly sees families with younger children. “So it’s also very difficult for family members already here, and already working long hours, to take on the responsibility for young children needing care all the time, from changing diapers to watching toddlers and preschool age kids.”
.. “You can’t have a first-cut process that approves everybody,” he says. “The ‘credible fear standard’ needs to be raised significantly so that you don’t even get fed into the pipeline for asylum unless you have a more-than-plausible story
.. But few experts believe that in the end, the policy of separating mother from their children would deter families from trying to apply for refuge.
“If the choice is to stay in your country and die, or come to the United States and face whatever may come, it’s not really a choice,”
.. “As traumatizing as it would be to be separated from your children, if the alternative is to see them killed, it’s not really a choice and it won’t be a deterrent from coming.”
a friend of the Homeland Security secretary told The Washington Post that Kelly, a tough talking Bostoner who spent 45 years in the Marines, is ideally suited to confront the challenges he’ll face.
.. Kelly did not gel with the previous administration, and his military career ended on a sour note in January 2016 after he repeatedly clashed with the Obama White House.
.. Officials there had grown tired of the four-star general speaking off message — about the president’s plan to shut down the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about the perceived vulnerability of America’s borders, about the threat posed to American interests by any number of terrorist organizations. Their relationship had become so strained that in the weeks before he retired, multiple administration officials went to the media and accused Kelly and other military leaders of endeavoring to undermine the Guantánamo closure plan.
.. His final job in the military, as head of U.S. Southern Command in Miami, gave Kelly deep insight into the criminal networks ravaging South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and their illicit trafficking pipeline — for drugs, guns and people — running north through Mexico and into the United States. He has long argued that transnational organized crime is among the greatest threats to U.S. national security.
.. A big piece of that will be addressing leaks and the president’s portrayal in the media.
.. “There’s a way to handle it,” Kelly’s friend said. “Simply go dark and do not engage.”