The Gang’s All Here—Thanks to Open Border

The Gang’s All Here—Thanks to Open Border
Gang inmates in a prison cell in San Vicente, El Salvador, on Feb. 6. In February 2023, El Salvador opened Latin America's largest prison as part of a plan to fight gangs. (Alex Peña/Getty Images)
Simon Hankinson
Have you heard of the Tren de Aragua, a Venezuelan criminal gang? Maybe not, but this is “the little engine that could,” that may bring your quiet American neighborhood some dangerous young men with little to contribute and even less to lose. Joseph Humire, an expert on Latin American security, calls the Tren “the fastest-growing transnational criminal organization in the world.”
Last year, the Tren de Aragua didn’t even make the Border Patrol’s ”Nationwide Apprehensions by Gang Affiliation,” an alphabetical list of 50 Central and South American gangs invading the United States—from the Angelino Heights Sureno 13 to the Zetas. But with 47,000 Venezuelans caught entering the United States at the southern border last December alone—27,000 of them single adults—the Tren is on track to make the list soon.
With President Joe Biden’s opening of our national borders, gang foot soldiers can enter from Mexico or Canada with ease. Or they can apply for President Biden’s bogus parole schemes, which let in another 50,000 or so illegal aliens each month.
The Tren is reportedly active everywhere from Atlanta to Chicago to Washington. When police raided a prison reportedly controlled by inmates from the Tren in Tocorón, Venezuela, last year, they found “a zoo, nightclub, swimming pools, and a children’s playground.” It’s not so fancy in New York City, but at least illegal alien gang members there get free housing in luxury hotels, free meals, free laundry, and now, prepaid debit cards, thanks to taxpayers.
According to the FBI, “The gang capitalizes on its Venezuelan community” in El Paso, Texas, primarily engaging in human smuggling and sex trafficking. Foreign gangs, from the Italian Mafia on down, always start with victimizing their own people, making money from extortion, prostitution, and drugs. But then they spread out.
Recently, a group of young, male illegal immigrants attacked two New York City police officers who had tried to stop them from stealing from a local store. They were part of a “wolfpack of violent shoplifters” who steal in the city and then leave for Florida and other states to enjoy the proceeds, according to the New York Post. The perpetrators are believed to be Venezuelans who crossed the southern border illegally, and there are indications they are members of the Tren de Aragua.
This being prosecutor Alvin Bragg’s soft-on-crime New York City, the few perpetrators whom police managed to arrest were soon released on cashless bail. Four others conned a local migrant charity into giving them tickets out west. Just as they gave fake names to score the bus tickets, they likely gave fake names to the border authorities who originally “processed” and quickly released them into the country.
Reports that they were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Phoenix proved premature—those were just other illegal aliens traveling freely around the United States. With so many millions out there, who can keep track?
The Tren is following in the footsteps of other foreign gangs already here. The violent MS-13, based in El Salvador, is all over the United States. This brutal outfit challenges its members to murder innocents to climb in status. In 2016, five MS-13 members stabbed a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old to death in a suburban park in Alexandria, Virginia. Six more MS-13 gang members were just convicted of a string of random murders in 2019, also in Northern Virginia.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas likes to tell us that illegal immigrants are carefully vetted before being released into our communities, but that’s just not true. When a young man presents himself at the border to be “processed” and then sent—with your tax money—to the city of his choice, our law enforcement doesn’t know who he is unless he already has some U.S. record. No matter how bad he is, if he’s never been here before, he won’t have a U.S. record.

There was a time when gang members were dumb enough to tattoo themselves in ways that U.S. authorities could identify them, but the wiseguys wised up. Border Patrol agents can only write down the names and identity information given to them by the aliens or available in documents they carry.

If illegal aliens suspected to be gang members have no documents and give fake names, U.S. agents have no way to verify the information other than calling Venezuelan officials. The sheer numbers being caught and released preclude doing that each time, and besides, the United States and Venezuela have frosty relations. The Nicolás Maduro regime has no incentive to tell us anything that’s not in its own self-interest.

President Biden’s open-border policies have let in as many as 8 million illegal immigrants since he took office. They tend to be younger, and more often male. In general, men are much more likely to be violent than women, and young people commit more crime than older people.

One study of recidivism showed that within 10 years, about 80 percent of criminals reoffended, and those who did averaged 5.4 arrests each during that time.

Even assuming average prevailing rates of criminality among illegal aliens released at the border, let alone greater rates due to criminals knowingly coming here for opportunity or to flee justice, we’re in for a sustained wave of crime. U.S. cities and towns will experience additional cases, from shoplifting to murder, that could have been prevented if our borders had been secure.

In the New York City precinct where the Venezuelans attacked those two police officers, grand larceny increased in 2023 by more than 83 percent year over year. Perhaps not unconnected, another group of violent thieves, led by another Venezuelan illegal immigrant, “predominantly live in the migrant shelter system,” according to New York police, and ventured out to commit up to 150 thefts in the vicinity.
Though many illegal immigrants sensibly keep their noses clean, the Department of Justice reported in 2018—before President Biden’s current mass releases at the border—that 64 percent of federal arrests involved “noncitizens, despite them comprising only 7 percent of the population at that time.”

If anyone wonders why the House of Representatives is intent on impeaching Mr. Mayorkas, this is one good reason. He swore an oath to protect the nation against foreign threats, but instead, he has willfully exposed us to them.

Reprinted by permission from The Daily Signal, a publication of The Heritage Foundation.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Simon Hankinson, a former foreign service officer with the State Department, is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Border Security and Immigration Center.
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