This week, the White House has been dealing with the ongoing Russian investigation, a revised health care bill, a new communications director, the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer and the possible firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, in the midst of this government tumult, President Donald Trump cannot stop talking about the Salvadorian gang MS-13.
Big progress being made in ridding our country of MS-13 gang members and gang members in general. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2017
Trump, who tweeted this statement out earlier today, could be doing it to deflect attention from his embattled administration. It’s a tactic that he appears to employ often. For example, yesterday Trump tweeted that transgender people will no longer be able to serve in the military. He didn’t give any more information about it. The U.S. Joint Chiefs were not given notice about the ban. Trump just sent out a tweet and that was the end of it.
Trump’s statements on MS-13 are being interpreted by some as a tactic to control the narrative about his administration.
The WH, grasping for accomplishments, has put major focus on making MS-13 a widely known scourge, to talk about efforts to crush the gang.
— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) July 27, 2017
Although MS-13 is a violent gang with thousands of members, Trump’s statements appear to imply that they are a significant source of this country’s violence. Painting the gang as a “widely known scourge,” as journalist Adrian Carrasquillo described it, gives the Trump administration a clear “enemy” that they can battle against.
Earlier this week, Trump lumped undocumented immigrants and MS-13 gang members together at a rally in Ohio, saying “illegal gang members” were “animals.”
“And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl—16, 15 and others—and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected anymore, folks.”
We do know that the number of deportations has increased since Trump became president. But out of that increase, it has not been made clear how many of them are actual criminals, murderers, rapists, drug dealers or MS-13 gang members.
Attorney General Sessions, who may or may not be out of work soon, has been somewhat laying low — at least in regards to his job. But one thing we do know about Sessions is that he’s always been “tough” on crime, especially when the culprits are Latinos. According to NPR, Sessions once claimed MS-13 was smuggling gang members into the U.S. as “unaccompanied minors.” American University research fellow Hector Silva Avalos told NPR there was no proof to back up Sessions’ statement. Sessions is in El Salvador right now, most likely working on Trump’s promise to “make America safe again.” Because if they can’t accomplish this, the Trump administration may continue to get criticism for not passing any major legislation for the last six months.
The Hill is reporting that Sessions is meeting with El Salvador’s Attorney General Douglas Meléndez and other authorities to discuss ways to eliminate MS-13. It should be mention that Sessions will supposedly be in the same room with former MS-13 gang members.
The Trump Administration announced the recent arrest of nearly 600 gang members by El Salvador’s government.
DOJ: 113 MS-13 gang members charged by El Salvador gov’t during AG Sessions' visit; 593 gang members, some from MS-13, charged yesterday. pic.twitter.com/rqcP3sitE6
— ABC News (@ABC) July 27, 2017
The Trump administration’s rhetoric about a supposed rising threat from MS-13 in the U.S. isn’t backed by statistics. For starters, violence has decreased considerably since the ’90s, despite a recent overall increase.
CREDIT: Major Cities Chiefs Association
Darrel Stephens, executive director of Major Cities Chiefs Association, told Time Magazine that it’s too soon to tell if our current increase in violence will be a trend because it takes criminologists about three to five years of data to get an overall picture.
“We’ve had at least two years running now where there’s been an increase in 35 to 45 major cities,” Stephens tells Time. “It’s a major issue and should be in the cities where it’s taking place. But it’s not anywhere near the kind of violence that we had in the 1990s.”
The chart above shows that violence has increased in major parts of middle America, which aren’t usually areas with very large populations of Latino immigrants.
The American Immigration Council, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, also reports that “immigrants are less likely to be criminals than the native-born.”
“The evidence that immigrants tend not to be criminals is overwhelming,” reports The American Immigration Council. “To begin with, there is an inverse relationship between crime and immigration. Crime rates in the United States have trended downward for many years at the same time that the number of immigrants has grown. Second, immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than the native-born. And, third, immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in the criminal behaviors that tend to land one in prison. No matter how you look at the issue, the inescapable conclusion is that immigrants are, on average, less prone to criminality than the U.S. native-born population.”
But it appears that’s not what Trump would have you believe.