Trump Exaggerates MS-13 Enforcement: Washington Post

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The Washington Post fact checker gives President Trump “three Pinocchios” for the claim in his State of the Union address that, “We have sent thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons.” Has the Trump administration taken “thousands and thousands” of MS-13 gang members off the streets, whether by deporting or imprisoning them? By the Justice Department’s count, 7,000 members are clustered in three areas: Long Island, Los Angeles and the Washington, D.C., region. “The stories about people getting their hands cut off, decapitated, are real,” said David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. MS-13 members pose a problem in the cities where they are most active, Kennedy added, but the gang is “not that organized” and “as a national matter, they don’t feature very much.”

No U.S. agency reports how many MS-13 members are deported each year. There is no nationwide database of MS-13 members imprisoned at the state or local levels, where the vast majority of crimes are prosecuted. There is no way to verify Trump’s latest claims because there are no reliable data. There has been a clear surge in law enforcement activity targeting MS-13 since Trump took office, but they don’t show that “thousands and thousands” of the gang’s members have been deported or imprisoned under Trump’s watch. Rather, they continue to show something in the “hundreds and hundreds” ballpark. The Justice Department got convictions in the U.S. for 1,200 gang members in 2017, but not all of them were MS-13 members. “What they’re saying about MS-13 in terms of its meaning in the U.S. is dramatically incorrect,” Kennedy said. He added, “In most cities when you talk to people who deal with gangs and violent crime, MS-13 simply never comes up.”

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