No Sanctuary for MS-13

'They are preying on the communities that they are living in'

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 21, 2017

An American Immigration Council fact sheet captioned "Understanding Trust Acts, Community Policing, and 'Sanctuary Cities'", dated October 10, 2015, succinctly summarizes the leading arguments that are made by proponents of such proposals. It begins:

The term "sanctuary city" is often used incorrectly to describe trust acts or community policing policies that limit entanglement between local police and federal immigration authorities. These policies make communities safer and increase communication between police and their residents without imposing any restrictions on federal law enforcement activities.

It's a simple concept, right? If the illegal alien community knows that the local police will not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is more likely that members of that community will come to the police when they have been victims of crime. My colleague Jessica Vaughan has refuted this canard, but nonetheless it persists.

As Vaughan has also noted, Prince George's County, Md., has been a sanctuary jurisdiction since October 2014, which makes the gang-related crimes in a December 20, 2017, article in the Washington Post all the more exasperating. That article is headlined: "'People here live in fear': MS-13 menaces a community seven miles from the White House".

It describes the criminal activities of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in Langley Park, an unincorporated area in the sanctuary county of Prince George's. The Post reports that "when it comes to the gang's infamous motto of 'kill, rape, control,' it's the third — enforced daily through extortion and intimidation — that defines life for some immigrants in places such as Langley Park." The article continues:

Despite aggressive policing, the area continues to be plagued by MS-13 drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, extortion and murder, according to court records and interviews with residents, activists, prosecutors and gang experts, as well as local and federal law enforcement officials.

The Post goes on to contradict the conclusions of Prince George's County Deputy Police Chief Sammy Patel that "years of anti-gang operations have broken MS-13's 'stranglehold' on Langley Park and prevented the spike in killings seen elsewhere," reporting instead that "prosecutors consider Langley Park a 'hub' of MS-13 activity and say the gang was likely responsible for five slayings there in the past four years."

The picture painted of the one-time bedroom community is one of a neighborhood under siege, particularly following the gang's renaissance "fueled by fresh recruits from an unprecedented wave of almost 200,000 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras," 4,500 of whom have gone to Prince George's County, "with many placed with Langley Park relatives."

The article also describes the "vast underground economy" in the area, including street vendors (like Abigail Bautista, the main subject of the piece), "undocumented families rais[ing] chickens in illicit coops in their kitchens," tenants who "sublet parts of their apartments, cordoning areas off with sheets," and illegal restaurants operating out of apartment buildings, the latter the result of a county crackdown a decade ago on food trucks in the neighborhood. Those restaurants, the Post explains, "are prime targets for extortion by MS-13, according to police": "As soon as the gang learns of them, members demand money and threaten violence."

The paper asserts that the gang has also set up its own illicit businesses:

MS-13's prostitution and drug operations in Langley Park are also profitable. Traditionally, the gang would extort pimps, but there are signs the gang is becoming more organized. This summer, police raided a brothel run by a particularly powerful clique of MS-13 called the Sailors. Officers knocked down the door with a battering ram, sending gang members jumping out of second-story windows, according to witnesses. Inside the apartment, authorities found that the gang had erected walls to create private rooms. Prince George's police declined to say how many people were arrested, but witnesses estimated almost a dozen. It's unclear whether they were charged.

The same clique extorts dealers and sells drugs itself, according to a federal indictment filed this year. When police raided one address in May, they found the squalid apartment being used as an illegal beer and drug den.

"The kitchen walls were falling off with mold," according to the report. "Creatine powder, which is known to be used to cut and mix powder cocaine, was observed in the kitchen and bedroom, and the residence was infested with cockroaches and gnats."

The Post contrasts President Trump's strong rhetoric in connection with MS-13 with "the fact that most of the gang's victims are not Americans but undocumented immigrants." That is a fact, however, that is not lost on most who have studied alien gangs (and alien criminals generally), including the Center for Immigration Studies.

Most of the supporters of sanctuary jurisdictions omit this fact from their talking points, however. But, as Michael McElhenny, a Maryland-based FBI supervisory special agent who was quoted by the Post states, MS-13 members "are preying on the communities that they are living in."

That the paper treats this as a revelation is part of the problem. "Sanctuary jurisdictions" create the illusion that they are able to keep vulnerable immigrant communities safe by keeping ICE out. In reality, ICE would be the most effective tool to eradicate the gang blight in Langley Park that the Post describes. If the Prince George's County police were to work closely with the agency (through a 287(g) program, for instance), known illegal alien gang members could be identified and, likely, fairly quickly removed from the United States.

Bautista was first extorted by MS-13, according to the Post, in 2012, shortly after she came to the United States. The paper asserts that: "Undocumented and afraid of being deported if she went to police, Bautista began handing over the cash." As noted, Vaughan has identified October 2014 as the date that Prince George's County became a sanctuary jurisdiction, as a result of a decision by the county executive. That status as a sanctuary, however, has not protected the residents of Langley Park from the predations of MS-13 since it went into effect. Gang-related extortion, intimidation, prostitution, drug dealing, robbery, and murder all continue, according to the paper of record.

If Prince George's County wants to be a sanctuary for immigrants, it should be a sanctuary from these evils, not from law enforcement, and definitely not from ICE.