Weekly InSight: Debunking the Trump Administration’s Alternative Facts about MS13

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In our April 20 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos about the recent rhetorical offensive launched against the MS13 by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

Dudley opened the conversation by asking Silva about his recent article examining the false and misleading statements about the MS13 that have been offered by Trump and top members of his administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Silva explained the history of the MS13’s development in Los Angeles, California in the 1980s, and how migration patterns contributed to the the gang’s expansion across most of the United States by the 2000s. However, he also pushed back against the notion proffered by Trump that the “weak” immigration policies of the administration of former President Barack Obama contributed to a resurgence of the MS13 in the United States during his time in office.

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profile

Dudley and Silva discussed how local and federal law enforcement actions taken during the administrations of both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, delivered strong blows to the MS13 that seriously disrupted the gang’s operations in the United States, particularly on the East Coast. And they contrasted the successes of the US approach with the shortcomings of El Salvador’s “mano dura,” or “iron fist,” strategy for dealing with gangs.

In addition, Dudley and Silva discussed the dynamics of the relationship between the MS13’s leadership in El Salvador and the gang’s “clicas,” or cells, in the United States. Rather than a hierarchical structure capable of carrying out complex transnational criminal operations like drug trafficking, Silva explained how the MS13 is a loose network that allows local leaders a significant degree of control over the gang’s activities in their areas of influence.

The conversation concluded with Dudley asking Silva about “what works” in terms of helping communities overcome problems related to gangs like MS13. Silva highlighted the key role of cooperation between law enforcement authorities and community stakeholders, as well as the importance of gathering and sharing reliable intelligence in order to develop solutions based on accurate assessments of the situation.

Watch the Facebook Live broadcast for the full conversation:

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