Almost one-third of 214 U.S.-based MS-13 gang members arrested in an international sweep were invited into the United States by President Barack Obama’s “Unaccompanied Alien Children” policy.
The successful “Raging Bull’ sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
The operation is a “significant step towards dismantling and eradicating MS-13 in the United States and in El Salvador,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki, the second-ranking official at DOJ’s Criminal Division. El Salvador police also arrested 53 gang members in El Salvador.
Sixteen of the 214 arrestees in the United States are U.S. citizens. Five were legal immigrants.
Ninety-three of 214 arrestees are charged with federal or state criminal offenses and will face prison time in the United States, said Derek Benner, the deputy executive associate director of the Homeland Security Investigations division.
The group of 214 include 193 illegal aliens, including 121 arrestees who will be deported but will not face criminal charges.
Sixty-four of the 193 illegals – nearly one in three – are would-be “dreamers” because they illegally crossed the border while claiming to be minors. Their unscreened claims to be children — not adults — won them the legal status of “Unaccompanied Alien Children,” which allowed them to claim federal aid and be released into the United States.
The status was provided by Obama’s administration, which was seeking ways to welcome migrants from Central America into the United States. That invite spiraled out of control, resulting in a huge wave of migrants in 2014, which helped Donald Trump get elected.
“Definitely some UACs end up being bad people and enter the country to do bad things,” said Homan, who is serving as acting ICE director and was nominated on Tuesday by Trump to head the agency. “That’s why we asked for several policy changes in [the requests] we sent to the Hill.”
Criminal charges against the 214 gang-members include racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in the furtherance of racketeering. According to Rybicki, an entire eight-man MS-13 “clique” (a local division of a gang) was arrested in the operation. This “Sailors Clique” operated in suburban Maryland, a hotspot of MS-13 activity, and has been linked to at least three murders.
U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Scott Luck explained that the operation worked with El Salvadoran intelligence agencies to identify people with links to MS-13.
The gang was created in Los Angeles during the 1980s because the U..S government failed to enforce immigration laws, which allowed El Salvador youths to sneak into the United States. Without economic skills in California’s diverse society, they formed their own national gang — and then recreated that gang in their own homeland once the illegal immigrants were repatriated home.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna explained that his agency’s work to identify illegal aliens with gang affiliations was vital to Raging Bull’s success. USCIS had one of its Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS)agents at the Raging Bull command center full time to work to that effect. “That individual reviewed asylum claims for MS-13 members targeted by the operation and assisted in assembling target packages for the immigration and/or criminal court proceedings of these gang members arrested during the operation,” Cissna said.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions bemoaned in October, gang members and other unworthy illegal aliens often use the United States’s generous asylum policies to tie up their cases in administrative proceedings, often needing only a “credible claim” of persecution in their home country to avoid deportation for years.
“FDNS also notified ICE HSI regarding asylum applicants with strong ties to MS-13 or other significant gang indicators,” Cissna continued. “Our headquarters FDNS officers search USCIS systems for information regarding 195 targeted MS-13 members and associates identified by the operation for additional vetting.”
Operation Raging Bull carries on a series of nationwide and international efforts against the brutal gang. In July, Attorney General Sessions went to El Salvador to announce nearly 600 arrests in that country. Earlier in the summer, ICE’s “Operation Matador” netteddozens of arrests in the United States.
El Salvador police also arrested 53 gang members in el Salvador.