Miller & Morse write:
‘People here live in fear’: MS-13 menaces a community seven miles from the White House
By Michael E. Miller and Dan Morse December 20 at 8:00 AM
Abigail Bautista, 34, of Langley Park, Md., describes what MS-13 did to her and then to her son. “People here live in fear,” she said. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
It took Abigail Bautista less than a month of living in Langley Park to learn that her new neighborhood in Maryland had its own set of laws, written not in statutes but in gang graffiti and blood.
The Guatemalan mother of five was pushing a cart of merchandise along University Boulevard one winter morning in late 2012 when three young men approached.
“Do you know who we are?” one asked her in Spanish.
Bautista shook her head.
“We are La Mara Salvatrucha,” he said. “And here, there are rules.”
Pay $60 “rent” per week or there would be trouble, he said. Undocumented and afraid of being deported if she went to police, Bautista began handing over the cash.
She had heard of the international street gang growing up in Central America, where MS-13, as it’s known, controls cities through brutality and corruption. But she had lived for the better part of a decade in the United States without crossing its path.
Now, she realized, she’d unwittingly moved into MS-13 territory a mere seven miles from the White House.
As the gang has grown in strength in recent years, so has its sway over communities across the country. From Boston to Northern Virginia to Houston, a string of grisly MS-13 murders has highlighted its resurgence, drawing a response from the White House.
“One by one, we’re liberating our American towns,” President Trump said this summer in Long Island, where MS-13 has been linked to more than a dozen recent killings.
Left out of Trump’s speeches, however, is the fact that most of the gang’s victims are not Americans but undocumented immigrants like Bautista. And when it comes to the gang’s infamous motto of “kill, rape, control,” it’s the third — enforced daily through extortion and intimidation — that defines life for some immigrants in places such as Langley Park.
“They are preying on the communities that they are living in,” said Michael McElhenny, a supervisory special agent for the FBI in Maryland.
More than a decade after a string of MS-13 killings shook the heavily Latino neighborhood, Langley Park is still struggling to shake off the gang’s influence. Despite aggressive policing, the area continues to be plagued by MS-13 drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, extortion and murder, according to court records and interviews with residents, activists, prosecutors and gang experts, as well as local and federal law enforcement officials.
. . . .
Federal authorities say the racketeering case and two other recent MS-13 indictments show they are serious about again dismantling the gang in Maryland. But Bautista won’t be satisfied until authorities lock up the man she suspects of leading MS-13 in Langley Park.
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Two weeks after her son’s body was found, and a few days before his vigil, she said, a letter was slipped under her door.
“If you keep talking, there will be consequences,” it warned in childlike handwriting, according to Bautista.
It was signed, she said, by the roofer.
Read the entire, much longer, article at the link.
One thing is clear: The gang problem isn’t going to be “solved” by having having clueless, anti-Hispanic, White Guys like Trump and Sessions uttering threats against the entire immigrant community from Washington.
No, the irony is that prosecutions and deportations, although they might rack up impressive statistics, really don’t bother gangs much. Gangs control big chunks of the prisons, both in the US and, even moreso, in the Northern Triangle. To some extent, a prison sentence is just a “temporary work reassignment.”
And, deportations: well that’s actually how the MS-13 grew, when the US deported LA gang members to El Salvador during the Reagan Administration without thinking about how to deal with the long term problem — how they would grow to control and terrorize the places to which they were being deported.
It doesn‘t take a “rocket scientist” (just someone smarter and less racist than Trump and Sessions) to figure out that the overheated anti-immigrant rhetoric that lumps gang members with generally law abiding workers and asylum applicants is a “made to order” recruitment tool for the MS-13 and other gangs.
”Trump and Sessions don’t respect you and don’t want you in America. They don’t even like the ‘good’ immigrants, so don’t waste your time on the false ‘American Dream.’ We’re you’re ‘REAL’ family that isn’t afraid of Trump, and will give you power, respect, and control, as long as you remain loyal to us. What’s Trump got to offer Hispanic youth?”
Reducing gang violence will require a nuanced, time consuming, labor intensive multi-cultural approach that:
- Treats Hispanic youth, documented and undocumented, with respect and shows them they are valued by society;
- Provides positive role models from the Hispanic community;
- Gives youth viable alternatives to gangs;
- Gains the trust of all members of the Hispanic community, whether documented or not;
- Involves bilingualism, more Hispanic police officers, and potentially dangerous undocover operations in the community;
- Recognizes and deals with the problems of gang control in US prisons;
- Deals with the difficult question of what happens when we deport gang members back to the Norther Triangle.
With respect to the latter point, if we merely send U.S. gang members back to terrorize communities in the Northern Triangle, that will lead more terrorized community members to flee to the U.S. The cycle will continue.
The Trump Administration’s ham-handed immigration policies taken from the “White Nationalist restrictionist playbook” will likely only exaberrate the problem of gangs and gang violence in the long run.