April 12, 2006

Immigration loopholes & the importation of violence

A most EXCELLENT article on the violence we export to -and import from- from Central America. Deportation Feeds a Cycle of Violence in Central America.

Since the early nineties, criminal gang networks operating across the border between the United States and Central America have exploded in power and number. The gangs take advantage of loopholes in international immigration and deportation policies to spread their influence through extreme violence.

The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, has become one of the "Most Wanted" of these gangs. What began as a loosely-connected group of Salvadoran immigrant youth banded together for protection in the join-or-die gang culture of Los Angeles has now grown into a transnational criminal hydra involved in murder, extortion, and some gun and drug smuggling.

U.S. deportation policies aggressively send undocumented gang members back to their home countries in Central America. They export U.S. gang culture and hardened criminals to countries whose internal security forces are ill-equipped to deal with the new threat. The street gangs have rapidly grown beyond being just a neighborhood problem to presenting a real national security threat in these countries.

Criminal deportees bring tactics, organization, and other criminal skills learned in U.S. prisons. These abilities translate into more sophisticated networks that have created a web that spans across Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Over time this network has made some links with organized crime, acting at times like foot soldiers to help with smuggling, assassination, and other duties.

Street gangs remain distinct from organized crime. But they have become a leading cause of insecurity in Central America. The region's history with clandestine death squads, drug and gun smuggling, corruption, and violence during the U.S.-supported "dirty wars" provided a propitious culture for the gangs' insertion into society. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as national police in three Central American countries actively seek solutions to break this 20-year-old cycle, but U.S. authorities and their Central American colleagues face a difficult game of catch-up.

MS-13 is no joke --- and if you think they're not coming soon to your backyard, think again.

Posted by Kyer at April 12, 2006 11:40 AM | TrackBack