Flashback: 99 MS-13 Gang Members Arrested - All Entered US as 'Unaccompanied Minors'


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re re-posting it here in case you missed it.

Nearly 100 members of the notoriously violent MS-13 street gang were among the young immigrants admitted into the U.S. under the classification of “unaccompanied minor” during the past 11 months, according to recent government data.

As CNS News reported, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement study found 99 gang members had received the status, including nearly two-thirds who were also granted “Special Immigrant Juvenile” status.

The immigrants arrested were targeted as part of ICE’s Operation Matador, described by the agency as a “unified effort to combat the proliferation of MS-13 and other transnational criminal gang activity in Long Island, the New York City metropolitan area and the Hudson Valley.”

As of the most recent updates available, the operation has netted 475 arrests for federal immigration authorities.

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“Ninety-nine individuals arrested during this operation crossed the border as unaccompanied minors, all of which were confirmed as MS-13 gang members,” the ICE statement read.

The agency went on to confirm that “64 individuals arrested during this operation obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status after entering the country, all of which were confirmed as MS-13 gang members.”

According to ICE, receiving the additional designation “provides certain children who have been subject to state juvenile court proceedings related to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law the ability to seek lawful permanent residence in the United States.”

The operation utilized resources from federal authorities in the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement personnel in New York.

Since the operation began in May, authorities from Hempstead, Piermont, Suffolk County, Nassau County, Rockland County, Sullivan County and Ulster County have assisted DHS in initiating arrests.

According to ICE, a majority of the nearly 500 already arrested were “confirmed as gang members and affiliates.”

Two of the MS-13 members arrested have reportedly confessed to homicides committed in their home country.

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One such individual was described by ICE as gang member “from El Salvador who admitted to killing rival gang members at the age of 12 in his home country and assimilated to the gang on Long Island.”

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Aside from MS-13, to which 274 individuals belonged, the agency reported that the “most prominent” gang represented was “the 18th Street gang with 15 arrests.”

Not only were many of those arrested connected to known street gangs, ICE noted that “80 had additional criminal histories, including prior convictions for assault and weapons charges.”

At least five of those individuals “are facing serious criminal charges,” the agency added.

In addition to the broader issue of immigration, President Donald Trump has frequently made it a point to denounce MS-13 as a dangerous entity inside America’s borders.

He has referred to the gang’s members as “animals,” and in his first State of the Union speech implored lawmakers to “finally close the deadly loopholes” he said have allowed MS-13 members to enter the U.S.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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