Sessions targets Salvadoran crime gang MS-13

Sessions targets Salvadoran crime gang MS-13
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsMcCaskill attended reception at Russian ambassador's residence in 2015 Sessions: Supreme Court travel ban order a victory for separation of powers Russia recalling ambassador at center of Trump campaign controversy: report MORE is blaming open borders and lax immigration enforcement for the growth of Salvadoran crime gang MS-13 in the United States.

Speaking to a meeting of the Organized Crime Council Tuesday, Sessions said his Justice Department would have "zero tolerance" for gang violence.

"We cannot allow this to continue. We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement and choke off supply lines," said Sessions.

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MS-13 is the U.S.-based arm of Salvadoran crime gang Mara Salvatrucha. Its members are known for their violent methods and fierce gang loyalty. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, MS-13 has more than 10,000 members in the United States, and more than 30,000 worldwide.

Sessions said the Salvadoran arm of the gang was taking advantage of lax immigration enforcement by "sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated."

He asked for a commitment from federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as "everyday Americans," to combat gang activity.

Sessions added that sanctuary cities, whose leaders limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, "dangerously undermine this process."

The Trump administration, led by Sessions, has taken a strong stance on sanctuary policies, claiming that local authorities are releasing dangerous criminals.

"Sanctuary cities are aiding these cartels to refill their ranks and putting innocent life — including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants — in danger," said Sessions.

Proponents of sanctuary policies say linking local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities undermines trust between immigrant communities and police.

The Organized Crime Council is a group of federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and others, that pursue national or transnational criminal networks.

"The organizations here worked together to take down the Mafia and the Colombian cartels. We can do it again," said Sessions.