When 13 members of MS-13, 10 of whom were in the country illegally, were charged in March with seven heinous murders in Suffolk County, N.Y. (including of two teenage girls), officials thought they had put a lid on the gang's stranglehold on the New York City suburbs. That optimism was short-lived with the discovery of four mutilated bodies in a park in Central Islip, another MS-13 stronghold, on April 12.
The victims were identified as Jorge Tigre, 18; Michael Banegas, 18; Jefferson Villalobos, 18; and Justin Llivicura, 17. Tigre's 21-year-old brother told officials one of the males he went to the park with was in MS-13, all of whom fit the demographic MS-13 mostly preys on. Since September, MS-13 has left a wake of nearly a dozen bodies in this suburban area of central Long Island.
Police have not released the names of any suspects.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the murders fit the brutal tactics MS-13 has used in the past and that his department's battle with MS-13 is a "long-term war". There is no doubt the violent gang still exists on Long Island.
What flies in the face of reason is that, despite the efforts of law enforcement in Suffolk County to eradicate MS-13 from its streets, unaccompanied children (UACs) from Central America continue to be placed in the high-risk communities of Brentwood and Central Islip.
Law enforcement on Long Island and other gang-saturated areas in Houston and in Maryland and Virginia need to look into the continued placement of unaccompanied youth from Central America in their communities, something that only contributes to backfilling gangs to make up for arrests. There has been talk about how to address this, but with the number of deaths continuing to plague communities around the country it's time to implement an ambitious immigration policy targeting UACs.
I spoke with some Brentwood school officials who said they are receiving more than 25 kids a week, prime recruiting fodder for MS-13. The Suffolk County attorney should file suit seeking an injunction barring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) from further placement of these kids in Suffolk County. I don't think this has ever been done before, but ORR has no concern for the welfare of the communities into which they are placing these children. They told me explicitly that they will not alert local schools, social welfare agencies, or police that they are placing UACs in a community for the sake of the children's privacy. This leaves communities like Brentwood wondering what they are going to do with all of these kids and how to mitigate the risk of them contributing to growing MS-13 recruitment and violence. Between 2014 and 2016, Suffolk County received 3,709 UACs and Nassau County received 3,151. ICE can put further pressure on the gang by apprehending the sponsors of these kids, 80 percent of whom are in the country illegally (though many don't always stay with their listed sponsor).
One positive enforcement measure occurred in March against the father of one of the teens accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in a Rockville (Md.) High School bathroom. Adolfo Sanchez-Reyes, 43, father of suspect Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, was apprehended by ICE for being in the country illegally from Guatemala.
While the Trump administration has expressed the need for extreme vetting of Syrian refugees, this at-risk subset from Central America that has brought tangible fear and carnage throughout American communities has received only passing attention. That needs to change.