Half of All Americans Believe That MS-13 Poses a Major Threat to the Country. Are They Right?

They’re invading the United States, posing as families and refugees to get across the Mexican border. It’s gotten so bad that entire communities — even Long Island — are “under siege.” This is how President Trump has characterized the notorious street gang MS-13, and to take him at his word makes the nation sound as though it is in a tooth-and-nails battle with its members.

Trump says these “violent animals“¯ gleefully exploit U.S. immigration laws — in particular, policies that give unaccompanied minors special protections at the border. Both Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have claimed that MS-13 uses this so-called loophole to sneak its members into the U.S. While the evidence is dubious at best, conservatives continue to cite this as justification for the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies.

With all of this talk about MS-13 and the terrible acts of violence the gang has committed, many U.S. residents are concerned about this group. A recent poll found that almost half of all Americans say that MS-13 is at least a “somewhat serious”¯ threat to the country as a whole; more than a quarter go so far as to say the gang is a “very serious”¯ threat. Unsurprisingly, the majority — 60 percent — of Trump supporters are deeply worried about MS-13.

But is MS-13 actually a credible danger to the continued existence of the United States?

Originally founded by refugees from El Salvador, MS-13 has rightfully earned a reputation for its viciousness. According to the FBI, the gang’s motto is “kill, rape, control” — and all are acts that MS-13 members have carried out in American communities. While most would agree that MS-13 should be stopped, experts on street gangs emphasize that the group doesn’t represent a fundamental threat to the United States.

According to an FBI report, among cross-border gangs MS-13 is only the seventh most active organization. In reality, MS-13 is rather different from other organized crime groups: It has no centralized leadership, and it tends to be made up of teenagers jostling for control of the gang’s various sub-groups. In fact, the majority of MS-13 members — even the leaders – tend to have day jobs.

Claims that MS-13 exploits laws for unaccompanied minors have also failed to live up to the hype. So far, there has not been a single case of this actually happening. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there have been just 56 suspected cases since 2012. MS-13 tends to recruit locally within the United States, but there’s no indication that the group’s numbers are growing.

Perhaps the most important thing to realize about MS-13 is that their violence is not entirely random. Their crimes almost exclusively victimize people in Latino communities, especially immigrants –  in many cases people who’ve come to the United States to escape gang violence in their homelands. That’s to say, white Americans have very little to fear from MS-13.

But if this new poll is any indication, Americans are buying into the Trump administration’s fear-mongering quite readily.

For Trump and Sessions, MS-13 has become a colorful prop to trot out to help justify severe crackdowns on immigrants. Though all evidence is to the contrary, the flawed notion that gang members can be stopped by separating families at the border and deporting people en mass persists. When Trump angrily recounts how a young person was slain by MS-13 at his rallies, keep this in mind: He’s exploiting a tragic death and the sorrow of these families merely to sell his racist, xenophobic policies that hurt vulnerable families and children.

Photo Credit: Communications PCOR /Flickr

81 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

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Joan E
Joan E8 months ago

Trump is the most violent animal I know of.

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Jack Y
Jack Y8 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y8 months ago

thanks

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Leo Custer
Leo C8 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Adele E Zimmermann
Adele E Zimmermann8 months ago

Donald Trump recently defended ICE by saying it was ridding the U.S. of "nests of MS-13 gang members". The truth is that only a minute portion of ICE deportations have been MS-13, if any. The majority have been family members who have worked hard for years to make a better lives for themselves and their loved ones. And ICE has been brutal to them.

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Danii P
Past Member 8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Danii P
Past Member 8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Brian F
Brian F8 months ago

Nicole H Trump is right about immigration. You are losing your cultural idenity. Muslims will soon outnumber your native population, and impose sharia law. Merkel in Germany has destroyed Germany by allowing mass Muslim immigration.

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