U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced on Wednesday that they had arrested 39 members of the gang MS-13, including three members who were living in Queens.
The gang, officially called Mara Salvatrucha, was started in Los Angeles in the 1980s and included mostly immigrants from El Salvador. It turned into an international operation with members all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America.
ICE in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Matador in an effort to combat MS-13 and other gang activity in New York. In addition to the MS-13 members, six members of the gangs Sureños, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Los Niños Malos and Patria were also arrested.
A total of 33 people were arrested in Suffolk County, 8 people were picked up in Nassau County, three people were arrested in Queens and one gang member was arrested in Brooklyn.
All of the gang members arrested were men and nationals from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala. According to ICE, the suspects are confirmed as gang members if they admit their membership, have been convicted of violating Title 18 USC 521, have tattoos that identify a specific gang or are identified as being in a gang from a reliable source. MS-13 gang members frequently have tattoos on their face and bodies.
On Long Island, members from MS-13 (the 13 represents the 13 seconds of beatings members must take to be initiated) are responsible for 17 murders since January 2016, including several high school students.
Those who were arrested face a variety of charges including felony assault, menacing with a weapon and disorderly conduct, fighting and violent behavior.
Twelve individuals arrested during Operation Matador crossed the border as unaccompanied minors and three people entered the country Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
Some of the individuals arrested will be tried for federal prosecution for re-entry after deportation; a federal felony. Those not criminally prosecuted will be processed for removal from the country, according to ICE.
Men who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country on federal charges. The remaining men will have their case heard by an immigration judge.
“Transnational gangs like MS-13 bring nothing but violence and conflict to our communities and their presence will not be tolerated. Their vicious criminal activities present an ongoing challenge for law enforcement everywhere,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York.
MS-13 was the first street gang in the united states to be classified as a Transnational Criminal Organization for its involvement in drug, sex and human trafficking trades. The Treasury Department gave the gang this classification in 2012 to try to shut down its financial operations.