19 November, 2017
The successful "Raging Bull' sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday".
Sixteen of the gang members arrested in the USA were American citizens. "However we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS's components and our domestic and worldwide partners", said Thomas Homan, ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director. The first part of the operation involved an 18-month investigation, which led to the arrest of 53 individuals in El Salvador.
"Of the 214 arrests made in the US, 93 were arrested on federal and/or state criminal charges", said ICE Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Executive Associate Director Derek Benner.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to crack down on criminal gangs, especially MS-13, and has referred to gang members as "animals" and "thugs".
"This is a great operation, but we are not done", Homan said, NBC News reports. It has led to more than 200 MS-13 arrests nationwide.
The only street gang designated by the Treasury Department as a transnational criminal organization, MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, boasts almost 10,000 members in the United States, mostly immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
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"They distribute illegal narcotics, they traffic in women and girls, and they extort business owners ... sending the proceeds back to El Salvador", he said at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters on November 16. The gang has since spread throughout the United States and Central America, with the operational center being in El Salvador.
There are about 30,000 MS-13 members worldwide, including 10,000 in the United States, according to information provided by the Justice Department.
The designation allows the drug task forces that typically focus on organized crime and drug trafficking to use an array of statutes, including gun laws, drug laws and tax laws, to target the gang.
"The MS-13 gang is a unsafe menace to our children, families, and citizens of not just the United States but internationally", he said.
"By taking criminal street gang members and associates off the streets - if they are here illegally, removing them from the country - we are addressing a significant security and public safety vulnerability", said Derek Benner, who works as a top executive in ICE's Homeland Security Investigations.
"However, we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS's components, and our domestic and worldwide partners", Homan said.