An active member of the street gang MS-13 was arrested early Monday morning crossing illegally into the United States with a group of illegal immigrants in Arizona, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said.
Harry Williams Payes-Mejia, 46, was arrested by Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents with two others east of the San Luis Port of Entry in Arizona.
Agents determined that Payes-Mejia is part of the dangerous street gang with previous removals from the United States. Record checks found that Payes-Mejia has several felony convictions, had served time in prison, and has an outstanding warrant for a probation violation.
The 46-year-old will face prosecution for re-entry and will be turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service for his warrant.
The CBP announcement comes amid widespread concern that criminals, drug traffickers, and illegal immigrants with criminal convictions are taking advantage of the burgeoning crisis at the U.S. southern border to illegally enter into the United States unnoticed.
For the month of March, CBP agents encountered over 172,000 illegal immigrants, according to statistics released on April 8. This is up from just over 101,000 individuals encountered in February.
Among those who crossed illegally into the United States last month were over 18,800 unaccompanied minors, which is double the number of minors who illegally arrived in the United States in February at over 9,300 encounters. This is compared to 5,585 unaccompanied minors in January, and 4,993 unaccompanied minors in December 2020.
Payes-Mejia’s arrest follows a similar arrest earlier this month where an MS-13 gang member from El Salvador was found crossing into the United States in California.
This also comes weeks after Border Patrol announced that it had arrested two Yemeni men who are on the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and the No-Fly list.
A group of Republican senators on Monday sent a letter to President Joe Biden to lament the handling of the crisis and called on the White House to immediately take more action to address the issue. Republican lawmakers have long argued that the crisis is a result of Biden’s move to overturn several Trump-era immigration policies that helped curbed the flow of illegal border crossings. This includes his predecessor’s cornerstone Migrant Protection Protocol, which effectively ended the problematic “catch and release” policy, significantly stemming the surge of illegal immigrants that were seen at the southern border in 2019.
Republicans in their letter raised concerns over the significant increase of contraband and drugs smuggled across the border due to the lack of resources to prevent smuggling operations by drug cartels and other criminals.
Citing statistics from the CBP, the senators said the Laredo Field Office reported that fentanyl seizures rose by 2,067 percent, cocaine seizures increased by 187 percent, weapons seizures are up 131 percent, and currency seizures increased by 64 percent.
“This confirms accounts that drug cartels and other smuggling operations are taking advantage of the disarray at the border to smuggle more drugs and weapons,” they wrote.
The MS-13 gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, was initially formed by Salvadoran immigrants fleeing the civil war in their home country. It is widely viewed as one of America’s most violent criminal groups, which also endangers the safety of communities in Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The gang’s motto is “kill, rape, control” and routinely uses brutal assault methods on victims to instill fear and force compliance.