Attorney General Jeff Sessions is escalating the Trump administration’s drive to eradicate the violent gang MS-13 by designating the group as a target for federal interagency task forces typically focused on drug trafficking and money laundering, Politico reports. Sessions is putting the El Salvador-based gang in the cross-hairs of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, alliances that coordinate law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “They all have one mission: to go after criminal gangs and drug traffickers at the highest levels,” Sessions told the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Now, they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus. I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13 … everything from RICO racketeering to our tax laws to our firearms laws. Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off the streets.”
Sessions warned that the reach of the deadly gang, known as Mara Salvatrucha, extends “through 40 U.S. states and to within yards of the U.S. Capitol.” He reminded the chiefs of the group’s motto: “Kill. Rape. Control.” The new designation for the task forces appears to broaden their focus. They were set up in 1982 as the war on drugs ramped up. While MS-13 sometimes engages in drug dealing, it is not viewed as a major player in the international drug trade. Budget legislation Congress passed last May authorizes expansion of the task forces’ priority targets beyond drug trafficking and money laundering. Sessions’ naming of MS-13 as a national priority for the task forces is the first such designation under that authority.