When President Trump touted his efforts to eradicate the El Salvadoran gang MS-13 at a May 23 forum in Bethpage, he said that the threat gang members pose can be solved with immigration law reform.
Two “solutions” that Trump is considering are decreasing foreign aid to the countries of undocumented immigrants and ending immigration policies like “catch and release,” which prevents undocumented immigrants from being detained while awaiting their immigration hearings.
MS-13 members butcher teenagers with machetes and mercilessly kill anyone who gets in their way. Yes, they need to be stopped, and yes, the U.S. must never welcome violent gangs.
Long before his first Long Island visit last July, however, Trump only added oxygen to the fire under the immigration reform debate. He has consistently portrayed MS-13 as the face of the Long Island Latino immigrant, and his latest visit shows how he is using the gang to scapegoat and isolate immigrants, making it harder for them to pursue citizenship.
Cutting foreign aid to countries that are already suffering financially would only exacerbate the impact of gangs in such places. Gangs, we know, thrive amid economic instability and give the helpless a false sense of security. With bigger, stronger gangs, more people from Central and South America would flee to the U.S., perpetuating a vicious cycle.
Catch and release began under President George W. Bush to help immigrants in the U.S. who are escaping gang violence in their home countries. It allows undocumented immigrants to live here while they await a decision on their immigration status, without fear of being detained or deported. The policy builds trust in immigrant communities. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, while praising Trump’s efforts to fight the MS-13 scourge at the forum, said trust is vital.
MS-13 has plagued the U.S. since the 1980s, and we must deal with the members who are here. At the same time, we must protect residents in high-risk areas, and we must work together with them, not against them, to fight MS-13.