Daily Mail Reporter and Associated Press
July 27, 2014
The Daily Mail
Members of some of the United States’ most notorious street gangs have infiltrated shelters housing illegal immigrant minors from Central America and are recruiting them, say Homeland Security sources.
An estimated 57,000 minors from Central America have flooded across the border from Mexico to the U.S. in recent months, and gang leaders are reportedly filling their ranks from among them.
Transnational gangs such as the Mara Salvatruca, also known as MS-13, and the 18th Street gang are using established juvenile members from Central America to cross the border and recruit other children to the cartels, say sources.
Recruiting drive: There are reports that gangs are trying to recruit young immigrants from Border Protection facilities where they’re being held
Transnational: A young El Salvadorean member of the Mara MS-13 street gang. There are reports that young members are enlisting other youngsters crossing the border
According to Fox News, Border Control agents have witnessed gang members using a Red Cross phone bank at the facility at Nogales, Arizona, to ‘recruit, enlist and pressure’ other minors into crossing the border.
Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Control Patrol Council, a union which represents border agents, says agents have witnessed the recruiting process.
The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement said earlier this week that they have no knowledge or evidence that gangs are recruiting immigrant minors.
‘We know it’s happening because agents are telling us,’ Moran told Fox News.
‘The Border Patrol is trying to downplay it.’
Gang culture learned in the U.S.: Carlos Tiberio Ramirez, one of the leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang
Flood: More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the southwestern border since October, more than twice the total this time last year
He said agents have overheard conversations in which recruits are given phone numbers to call after crossing the border in order to contact gang members.
Ironically, many immigrants flooding across the southern border of the U.S. say they’re fleeing violent gangs in Central America.
Experts, however, say those gangs are actually a byproduct of U.S. policies in the 1990s that sent many immigrants back to Central America after they had been indoctrinated into gang culture in this country.
The violence they took with them easily took hold and flourished in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – countries with weak, dysfunctional governments.
One study estimated some 350,000 Central American immigrants illegally came to Southern California from 1980 to 1985 while trying to escape civil war and corruption in their home country.
They arrived with few English skills, and many settled in poor neighborhoods with strong Mexican gangs and black gangs.
To survive and avoid bullying, some formed gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha or joined others such as the 18th Street gang. They committed serious crimes and were sent to prison, where they were further exposed to violent gang culture.
Detainees: Many of the children arriving from Central America are fleeing gang violence in their homelands
In the 1990s, the U.S. increased deportations of immigrants facing criminal charges, particularly gang members. As many as 1,500 Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran youths were sent back each month to Central America. They arrived with the notoriety of being a Los Angeles gangster.
‘There’s this huge explosion in all three of these countries of the gangs and the number of gang members, partially because it’s the way of street kids getting status and reputation, and partially because it’s a way of surviving,’ said Tom Ward, a University of Southern California associate professor who has studied the issue.
What is the relation between the gangs and the influx of immigrants at the U.S. border?
Many people fleeing Central America say they are running from violence perpetrated by the gangs. But the migration is also an effort to reunify families.
At least 80 per cent of youths stopped at the border have one parent or a close relative already in the United States, said Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and senior fellow for the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
Family members already in the U.S. have saved enough money to pay a smuggler to bring their children across the border so boys won’t be forcibly recruited into gangs and daughters won’t be subjected to sexual violence.