New York Times (New York)
By Liz Robbins
July 25, 2017
In the wake of last week’s announcement that more than 15 members of the transnational gang MS-13 had been arrested in five murders on Long Island, President Trump is coming to Suffolk County on Friday to discuss measures to eliminate the gang. He is planning to meet with Representatives Peter T. King and Lee Zeldin, Republicans whose districts include Suffolk County, and other officials.
Mr. Trump’s planned visit was first reported by Newsday and was confirmed by Mr. Zeldin’s office on Tuesday. The location of the meeting has not been announced.
In April, two weeks after four young Latino men were found brutally murdered in the woods outside a Central Islip park, Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the area to declare war on MS-13. He said that the federal programs to accept unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America led to the rise in the gang’s numbers.
But three of the young men killed were immigrants, and two of them, cousins Michael Lopez Banegas, 20, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, had fled the gang in Honduras, entering the United States as unaccompanied minors. Both had asylum applications pending.
Since January 2016, the police said there have been 17 murders attributed to MS-13 on Long Island. The gang, known as La Mara Salvatrucha, has roots in Los Angeles and El Salvador and has existed for more than two decades on Long Island.
Mr. Trump has vowed to get rid of the “bad hombres” who have entered the United States illegally. But immigrant activists protesting when Mr. Sessions visited said they were concerned that the rhetoric would lead to backlash against their community.
The Suffolk County Police Department said it has made more than 170 arrests of MS-13 members since September, when two friends, Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, were murdered by the gang in Brentwood. In solving those murders, as well as the deaths of the four young men, the police worked with federal authorities to have the gang members charged with murder and racketeering, as part of a criminal organization.
But not all gang members arrested can be charged under the federal law for criminal organizations, said Timothy Sini, the Suffolk County police commissioner, at the news conference last week. He said that is why his department works with federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.
In June, the Homeland Security Investigations unit of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced it had made 39 civil arrests of MS-13 gang members in the New York City region who had also committed violent felonies, as part of what it called Operation Matador.
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