Yeganeh Torbati reports for Reuters News. Click the above link to play video!
As Yeganeh’s report notes, nobody disputes the Trump Administration’s claim that the MS-13 are “Bad Guys” who should be removed from the U.S. Although you wouldn’t know it from the Trump Administration’s self-congratulatory rhetoric, every Administration going back to that of President Ronald Reagan has made a concerted effort to remove gang members. They were a particular priority of the Obama Administration’s criminal alien removal program.
Unlike Trump, Sessions, and most of those “spouting off the rhetoric,” I have been involved in gang removal efforts from both the law enforcement and the judicial perspectives. I actually came face to face with gang members and entered final orders removing them from the United States at several levels during my Government career. And, unlike some final orders of removal, I know that these were actually carried out.
Not surprisingly, though, a few of the deportees managed to reenter the U.S. again. No “wall” is likely to stop determined international gangs from getting their members back into the U.S. if they really want to. Just like “show deportations” didn’t significantly hamper or eradicate Italian Mafia-type organized crime gangs, the “Maras” are unlikely to fold their tents and disappear quietly into the night just because of “get tough” speeches by American politicos and some well-publicized deportations. Most Maras are actually pretty good at running operations from abroad, as well as from prisons, both here and in the Northern Triangle.
I have observed, however, that the Trump Administration’s anti-gang program is likely to be relatively ineffective for a number of reasons. First, by terrorizing Latino communities with DHS arrests and removals of law-abiding non-criminals, they make it difficult or impossible for victims, most of whom are members of the Latino community, and some of whom are undocumented or come from “mixed families,” to report gang-related crimes and activities to the police. Thus, these folks are “easy marks” for the gangs.
Second, for the same reason, many community members are reluctant to come forward and be witnesses against gang members for fear of their own deportation or that the police will not protect them from retaliation.
Third, by consistently “dissing” and devaluing the contributions of the many law-abiding members of the Latino community, this Administration makes it easier for gang recruiters to point to the “empowerment” and “respect” that gangs claim to offer.
Fourth, by “manipulating the law” to deny legal protections to many of those who courageously resist gang recruitment (I just “blogged” an egregious example from the 9th Circuit this week), the Administration sends a strong “you might as well join” message to young people in the U.S. and who are returned to the Northern Triangle. The message that our Government places no value on their lives is not lost on these kids.
Finally, by failing to concentrate on the root causes of gangs in the Northern Triangle, and instead consistently “over-selling” the law enforcement benefits of deportation, the Administration guarantees an almost endless regime of violence and disorder in the Northern Triangle and a steady stream of would-be refugees flowing north.
The only effective gang-eradication programs that I’m aware of involve local authorities, often from the Latino community, gaining the trust of the young people in the community and “reinforcing” Latino role models, some originally from undocumented backgrounds, as offering viable alternatives to gangs. Slowly, through education and community based activities that show the value, respect, and positive recognition that can be gained by avoiding gangs and having the courage to stand up against them, we can, over time, drastically reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate the destructive role gangs in America.
But, the continuing White Nationalist, anti-Hispanic “blathering” of Trump, Sessions, Homan, and the other GOP “hard liners” is likely to be counterproductive. And, “traditional” law enforcement methods of arrest, imprisonment, and deportation have been shown, by themselves, to be ineffective in solving the long-term problems of gangs in both America and the Northern Triangle. Of course we should continue to arrest and deport known gang members. But, we shouldn’t expect that, without some community-based solutions and more thoughtful approaches to the problems caused by deportations in the Northern Triangle, deportations will solve our problem. They won’t!