Trump Says Los Angeles-Founded MS-13 Gang Has ‘Literally Taken Over’ U.S. Cities
President Donald Trump on Thursday made a sweeping assertion that the MS-13 gang has “literally taken over” US cities — but his remarks about the violent street gang contained a number of misstatements or claims that were impossible to back up with evidence.
MS-13 has been a frequent talking point of the Trump administration as part of its justification for hard-line immigration policies and border security. It was in that context that Trump brought up MS-13 in his opening statement in a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos — as he talked about stopping trans-border crime.
“MS-13, likewise, a horrible, horrible large group of gangs that have been let into country over a fairly short period of time are being decimated by the Border Patrol and by ICE and by our incredible local police forces and they are getting out of our country or in some cases, going directly into prisons throughout our country,” Trump said. “But they’ve literally taken over towns and cities of the United States.”
While Colombia is an important front in the fight against gangs and drugs, MS-13 is a Central American and US-based gang, so Trump’s mention of the issue seemed unrelated to his conversation with Santos.
It was also entirely unclear which cities and town Trump meant were “literally taken over” by MS-13, which remains a small fraction of the overall gang problem in the US, per available statistics.
Neither the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement nor the White House responded to a request for clarification.
Origin of MS-13: Not imported and not new
Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, is a transnational gang with a heavy presence in Central America — but it actually began in the United States three decades ago.
MS-13 began in Los Angeles in the 1980s amid a flood of Salvadorans fleeing a civil war to the US.
It was the US deporting these immigrants in the ’90s back to Central America that sent the gang there, where it took hold.
Now the gang has footholds in the US and in Central America in cities like Los Angeles, New York and the Washington, DC, region and countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.