News that 13 reputed Mara Salvatrucha gang members, better known as MS-13, had been charged on Long Island in a spree of violent crimes and the killings of seven people, at least three of them teenagers, jarred us awake recently.
The fact that 10 of the 13 local reputed gang members were in the United States illegally propelled the headline around the globe.
It’s hard to say whether MS-13, founded by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s, were the “bad hombres” President Donald Trump controversially spoke of with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in January, but they surely qualify for the moniker.
MS-13 wreaks terror in communities throughout the United States, Latin America and Canada. Its members deal in drugs, human smuggling, underage prostitution and gruesome killing, among other non-niceties. They aggressively recruit young Latino immigrants in U.S. cities — including NYC — and suburban communities.
No one wants to politicize the brutal killings of three teens, but it’s impossible not to wonder what impact the deaths and others like them around the country will have on the raging American debate about illegal immigration.
It’s hard to see how the arrests and the upcoming trials for those arrested don’t help Trump’s call for greater immigration enforcement. The conversation already had begun to tilt in Trump’s direction, from my reckoning.
To be sure, not everyone living in our country illegally can be called a “bad hombre.” In fact, experts who study criminality among those in the United States illegally seem to agree that most research indicates immigrants commit crime at lower rates than native-born U.S. citizens. However, outrage about the crimes committed by gang members is surely justifiable.
The recent gang killings remind us that there can be no compromise when gang members are concerned. The Trump administration must have carte blanche to deal with them as aggressively as they deal with their enemies.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.