The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats? Page: 2 of 24
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The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs:
Emerging Transnational Gang Threats?
Two predominantly Latino gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street
gang (M-18), have raised concern among policy makers for several reasons: (1)
membership in these gangs has spread from the Los Angeles area to other
communities across the United States; (2) these gangs are becoming "transnational,"
primarily because MS-13 and M-18 cliques are being established in Central America
and Mexico; (3) evidence suggests that these gangs are engaged in criminal
enterprises normally associated with better organized and more sophisticated crime
syndicates; and (4) MS-13 and M-18 gang members may be involved in smuggling
operations and, by extension, could potentially use their skills and criminal networks
to smuggle terrorists into the United States. To date, however, no evidence exists
establishing a link between MS-13 and M-18 members and terrorists.
Nevertheless, some observers maintain that these two gangs may develop the
capacity to become organized criminal enterprises capable of coordinating illegal
activities across national borders. Yet, others find them to be no more criminally
organized or sophisticated than other street gangs. At issue for Congress is whether
the MS-13 and M-18 gangs constitute an emerging transnational criminal threat.
The federal response to the MS-13 and M-18 gang problem has largely involved
the enforcement of criminal and immigration laws, including the deportation of alien
gang members. More recently, federal efforts have focused on prosecuting gang
members under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute.
Deported alien gang members have established MS-13 and M-18 gang cliques in
their home countries, and some experts suggest that U.S. deportation policies have
effectively transported U.S.-styled gang culture to parts of Central America and
Mexico. Moreover, evidence shows that deported alien MS-13 and M-18 gang
members have established a "revolving door" migratory pattern of repeat illegal
reentry into the United States, raising concerns that these "migratory" alien gang
members may become involved in narco-trafficking, smuggling, and other criminal
activities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Legislation has been introduced in the 110th Congress (and one such proposal
has been passed by the Senate) that would strengthen the enforcement of immigration
law directed at alien gang members and provide additional tools to federal
prosecutors to pursue members of violent gangs. Such legislation includes H.R. 880,
H.R. 1582, H.R. 1645, H.R. 2954, H.R. 3150, H.R. 3156, H.R. 3547, H.R. 4165, S.
330, S. 456, S. 990, S. 1348, S. 1639, S. 1860, and S. 2294.
This report will be updated as legislative activity warrants.
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The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats?, report, January 30, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc811543/m1/2/: accessed January 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.