Invasion of America’s Southern Border: Providing Sanctuary for MS-13 Killers

Many of the illegal aliens pouring into the U.S. are not fleeing chaos; they are bringing it with them. Indeed, many are responsible for creating the chaos. Bringing in another generation of street gangsters, drug pushers and killers under the false rhetoric of providing sanctuary from “violence and oppression” in Central America would be foolish and dangerous. The U.S. has been down this road before and it has been a nightmare.


By William R. Hawkins | July 22, 2014

On Saturday morning, July 19, Katie Pavlich reported on Fox News about a group of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members being held in Nogales, Arizona. They are part of the influx of “unaccompanied children” which are causing such chaos along the U.S.-Mexico border.  MS-13 is one of the most violent gangs operating in the United States. It is known for its use of machetes in killing and maiming those who get in its way. According to Pavlich, who has seen the source documents, several of the MS-13 members have admitted to Border Patrol agents that they had engaged in torture, murder, extortion and other criminal acts in their homelands. However, because they are minors, the Border Patrol cannot take any action against them, not even separating them from the other immigrants being processed at the Arizona facility. Most of the “children” coming across the border are teenagers and the prevalence of gang tattoos has been noted.

MS-13 was founded in the U.S. during the 1980s by immigrants fleeing El Salvador’s civil war. MS-13 has over 10,000 members in 46 states, though its strongest groups are in California and Maryland (with extensions into Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia). In 2004, the FBI set up a special MS-13 National Gang Task Force. A 2008 FBI Threat Assessment identified the group as “mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran-Americans, but also Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other Central and South American immigrants. And according to our recent national threat assessment of this growing, mobile street gang, they could be operating in your community…now or in the near future.” The FBI assessment stated, “MS-13 members engage in a wide range of criminal activity, including drug distribution, murder, rape, prostitution, robbery, home invasions, immigration offenses, kidnapping, carjackings/ auto thefts, and vandalism.” And, “[t]hey often target middle and high school students for recruitment.”

Zack Taylor, a retired Border Patrol agent with over twenty years experience, has stated that MS-13 trains gang members from age 8, including how to be an “assassin.” Though the administration has tried to control media access to the processing centers, enough photos have gotten out to show that these “children” are far from being the cute tykes the liberal press likes to depict.

The FBI’s 2011 Threat Assessment reported, “Sureño gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), 18th Street, and Florencia 13, are expanding faster than other national-level gangs, both in membership and geographically. Twenty states and the District of Columbia report an increase of Sureño migration into their region over the past three years. California has experienced a substantial migration of Sureño gangs into northern California and neighboring states, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon.” The term Sureño refers to gangs with ties to Mexico, Central America and points south. Continued high levels of illegal immigration across the Mexican border only fuels this growth of violent crime in American cities and states.

The current surge of illegal immigrant “children” and families are being called a humanitarian crisis. The trespassers are supposedly fleeing drug gangs, rampant violence and state failure in Central America. This was exactly the same arguments used to justify the acceptance of “refugees” from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in the 1980s, which led to the creation of MS-13 in the first place. History is repeating itself. Many of the illegal aliens pouring into the U.S. are not fleeing chaos; they are bringing it with them. Indeed, many are responsible for creating the chaos.

The debate over illegal immigration in the 1980s revolved around the so-called Sanctuary Movement. The liberal Migration Policy Institute tells the story of how “Large-scale migration to the United States from Central America began, as hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans fled north from civil war, repression, and economic devastation” led to a Left-Right political battle.

The protagonists in the controversy included, on one side, immigrants’ rights lawyers, liberal members of Congress, religious activists, and the refugees themselves. On the other side were President Reagan and his administration, the State Department, the Department of Justice (including the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)), and conservative members of Congress. The first group invoked international human rights and humanitarian and religious principles, while the Reagan administration’s arguments centered on national security and the global fight against Communism.

Though the sanctuary movement has faded from public memory it is still very much alive in left-wing mythology. Pro-amnesty immigration groups are reviving the terminology in support of the new wave of Sureño invaders. The original sanctuary movement had its roots in the Cold War. It attempted to reverse the political influence of refugees fleeing communist tyranny, as in the case of Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Eastern Europe. The sanctuary movement championed refugees from the failed communist revolutionary movements in Central America, in particular from El Salvador and Guatemala. These were countries with pro-U.S. governments, which the left wanted to portray as “oppressive” and ruled by “death squads.” The movement was closely linked to support for the communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. It was a short step from revolution to organized crime; just another form of the forced redistribution of income.

There is still a strong ideological component to the revived campaign. For example, the New Sanctuary Movement of New York City proclaims it is, “standing publicly in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together. We recognize that unjust global and systemic economic relationships and racism form the basis of the injustices that affect immigrants. We seek reform of United States immigration laws to promote fairness, social and economic justice.”

Bringing in another generation of street gangsters, drug pushers and killers under the false rhetoric of providing sanctuary from “violence and oppression” in Central America would be foolish and dangerous. The U.S. has been down this road before and it has been a nightmare. The left remembers the sanctuary movement; the rest of us should as well and prevent its revival.


William R. Hawkins, a former economics professor and Congressional staffer, is a consultant specializing in international economics and national security issues. He is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.