Lax Immigration Enforcement, Sanctuary City Policies Led to Resurgence of MS-13, Says Report

The Obama administration’s lax approach toward stemming the flow of unaccompanied minors from Central America and weak interior immigration enforcement contributed to the resurgence of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang, according to a new report.

A Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) analysis shows how the gains made by the Bush administration in combating “Mara Salvatrucha,” or MS-13, were lost after Obama chose in 2012 to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to prioritize major conspiracy cases over arresting gang members for immigration violations or minor crimes as the Bush administration did starting in 2005.

Since 2012, 207 murders and more than 100 cases of conspiracy/racketeering, and dozens of others for drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion have been tied to MS-13 across 22 states, the report found.

After reviewing more than 500 cases of MS-13 gang members since 2012, CIS researchers determined that 126 of the 506 suspects (and 38 of the 207 murder suspects) were illegal aliens and 120 of the 506 MS-13 suspects arrived as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs), including 48 of the murder suspects.

“The resurgence is directly connected to the illegal arrival and resettlement of more than 300,000 Central American youths and families that has continued unabated for six years,” writes CIS scholar Jessica Vaughan.

In 2012, MS-13 was declared an international criminal group subject to sanctions by the Treasury Department, but it was a merely symbolic move given the Obama administration also adopted a policy preventing ICE officers from arresting and removing foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes.

The result was gang arrests by ICE plummeted from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014.

The Trump administration is taking the threat seriously, but its efforts are being slowed by jurisdictions adopting sanctuary policies.

Following California, Oregon and Washington State’s lead, the Maryland state legislature soon will consider the Supporting All Families Everywhere (SAFE) Act, which give officials immunity for refusing to provide information to the federal government that could be used to enforce federal immigration laws. If successful, any cooperation between police and immigration agents will be further disrupted.

During the recent immigration debate, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced an amendment to allow for fast deportation of gang members, but it never received a vote.

A similar proposal passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 233-175.

About Author


Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.


  1. avatar

    I don’t think so..the real criminals like them..are not in plain sight….they are hidden…so even if all illegas are thrown out…these guys will still be here somehow….a big lie…

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