(NEW YORK) — A federal operation dubbed “Regional Shield” has resulted in criminal charges against more than 3,800 alleged gang members in the U.S. and Central America, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
Dismantling one particularly violent gang, the El Salvador-based group MS-13, has become a priority for the Trump administration, especially U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department said in a press release.
“[It] is one of the most violent and ruthless gangs in America today, endangering communities in more than 40 states,” Sessions said in a statement. “More than 70 of these defendants were living in the United States … MS-13 coordinates across our borders to kill, rape and traffic drugs and underage girls.”
Over the past six months, law enforcement officials in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have assisted the Justice Department in filing the charges.
“Studying their modus operandi, we realized tackling [the gangs] would require working jointly with the United States, Guatemala, and El Salvador,” Honduran Attorney General Chinchilla Banegas said. “This approach has allowed us to share information and strike the financial structures of the gangs.”
Although the joint effort –- four nations working together to obtain evidence and share information — has resulted in over 3,000 criminal charges this year, the U.S. response itself has focused mainly on the enforcement of immigration laws, according to a Congressional Research analysis on MS-13.
In President Trump’s speech in July about combating MS-13, the commander-in-chief touted his efforts to secure U.S. borders, expressed his support for law enforcement officers, and pushed his plan for building a wall along the Southwest border so authorities can “jail … and deport” members.
A Congressional Research analysis, however, noted that previously-deported gang members often reenter the U.S. illegally.
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