Sunday, February 11, 2018

'Trump, the Truth, and MS 13

When President Trump spoke during his State of the Union address about tightening immigration laws to keep out members of MS-13, the violent transnational street gang, many Angelenos working with former gang members raised their eyebrows at one omission: MS-13 was formed in Central Los Angeles, not Central America as the president suggested. 
Jorja Leap, a University of California Los Angeles anthropologist, lamented the common misconception that MS-13 was brought to the United States from El Salvador. The group was in fact able to thrive in the 1980s amid the intense poverty in Los Angeles. 
MS-13, she said, took advantage of a social situation in which young people had experienced abuse, trauma or social isolation in the United States, not abroad. MS-13’s brand of violence then spread back to Central America, exported by immigrants in the United States who were deported. Its leadership, such as it is, is based in El Salvador and most of its members are there. 
“Any gang is opportunistic. They go where the population is vulnerable,” Dr. Leap said, pointing out MS-13 has particularly terrorized the immigrant community. “They stick to the communities where they can intimidate, where they can abuse and blindside people.” 

She said the gang has lost power in Los Angeles in recent years, part of a collaboration between City Hall and law enforcement and activists, who have stressed rehabilitation for gang members seeking an exit ramp from lives of crime. She pointed to such collaborations as the path to reducing gang violence. 
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