In a May 23 letter to Scott Lloyd, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, stated that at least 16 self-proclaimed MS-13 gang members were transferred out of federal custody and into community placement centers across the country during the border surge in unaccompanied “children” from Central America in 2014.
In his letter, Johnson referred to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) documents from July 2014, which “appear to show that the federal government [during the Obama administration] knowingly moved self-identified gang members from Nogales, Arizona to placement centers in communities across the country. As you know, it is common for UACs [unaccompanied children] to be released from their placement center while awaiting a court date.” Johnson said the documents were turned over to his office by a whistleblower.
Johnson then asked Lloyd to provide his committee with a number of listed items to assist the committee with its investigation of the infiltration of our country by gang members no later than June 6, 2017.
Johnson’s committee has been holding hearings this week on the “The Rise of MS-13 and Other Transnational Criminal Organizations.”
Johnson also pointed out that the image of UACs as little children is misleading. The reality is, that out of nearly 200,000 UACs apprehended between from 2012 to 2016, 68 percent were ages 15, 16 or 17, i.e., older teens. Furthermore, the majority of these teenagers were also male, making them prime targets for gang recruiting.
In his opening statement for his committee’s hearings on the rise of MS-13, Johnson observed that during the committee’s examination of America’s unsecured borders, “we have learned how transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels exploit American policies and our lack of border security to advance their criminal agenda. Today we continue that important work by discussing how the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, and other Central American gangs affect communities throughout the United States.”
The senator said that the FBI has identified five hot spots that have a concentrated MS-13 presence and violence: Los Angeles; Houston; the Washington, D.C. region; Long Island, New York; and Boston. He cited figures of an estimated 10,000 MS-13 members in the United States and another 30,000 in Central America.