Federal immigration and customs officers have arrested more than 1,000 suspected gang members and associates this year in a campaign aimed at deporting illegal immigrants with suspected ties to violent criminal organizations, the Washington Post reports. The Department of Homeland Security’s anti-gang program seeks to use immigration laws to remove many alleged gang members from the country rather than pursue them through U.S. criminal courts.
The campaign, dubbed Operation Community Shield, resulted in arrests of 1,057 alleged gang members over the past five months — including 582 suspects apprehended during a concerted push in the last two weeks of July. The operation started in March as a way to target Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a violent street organization active in Northern Virginia and other parts of the South. The program has expanded to encompass alleged members of 80 gangs in 25 states, including Latin Kings, Asian Boyz,and Jamaican Posse. The Justice Department estimates that more than 750,000 gang members are active across the nation.