One of the country’s most notorious criminal organizations is coming under attack from the Trump administration, spearheaded by Jeff Session’s Justice Department.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that the MS-13 street gang is now a priority target for the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, and enabled all relevant authorities to target the group with a wider array of federal resources, according to The Washington Times.
The priority designation for MS-13 will instruct federal agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, IRA, and many others, to target the El-Salvador-based gang on anything that they can be prosecuted for, including firearms, racketeering, and tax laws.
“Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus,” Mr. Sessions said in an address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia. “Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets.”
The task force was previously restricted to only prosecuting cases involving drug trading or money laundering, but recent changes to the task force’s authority and budget let the Justice Department name the organization as a priority. It also means that the task force will be able to prosecute a broader variety of cases, including murders and firearm violations.
“I am announcing that I have authorized them to use [every] lawful tool to investigate MS-13 —not just our drug laws, but everything from [racketeering laws] to our tax laws to our firearms laws,” said Sessions, according to The Independent.
MS-13 was formed by El Salvadoran immigrants in the Los Angeles area nearly 40 years ago. Since then, the gang has grown to over 10,000 members in America, with another 40,000 in central America.
Although President Trump claimed that his administration deported 2,798 gang members in the fiscal year of 2017, that number included members from all gangs, not just MS-13.
“Drugs are killing more Americans than ever before, in large part thanks to powerful cartels and international gangs and deadly new synthetic opioids, like fentanyl,” Mr. Sessions said, echoing similar sentiments from the President, who declared that the opioid crisis is a “national emergency.”
In his address, Sessions also highlighted a number of recent Justice Department grants that have been awarded to law enforcement agencies. Most significantly is $100 million in grants that will help pay for state and local agencies to hire more police officers. A further $5 million will be spent on rapid response training to respond to active shooter incidents related to gang violence.
Making a street gang such as MS-13 a priority for the Justice Department is something that one expert feels is a significant shift for the task force. James Trusty, who headed the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime & Gang Section, said, “The most common aspect of MS-13 prosecutions has been murder and witness intimidation or retaliation.” He did mention that some aspects of the gang’s drug connections might be more difficult to prosecute, according to Fox News.
AG Sessions has called for intense pressure to be put into eliminating MS-13. Is this a good use of federal resources?
The group has been one of the Trump administration’s main targets amid its broader crackdown on illegal immigration, as many of its members have been involved in high-profile and brutal killings in the past.
With the full might of law enforcement bearing down on this gang, it’s only a matter of time before their chapter in American criminal history comes to a close — and that can’t come soon enough.