President Donald Trump’s administration has declared war on MS-13, one of the world’s most violent and powerful gangs, resulting in the arrest and deportation of scores of alleged gang members. Al Jazeera decided to investigate this war on gangs and what impact it has had on not just crime, but on the targeted communities as well. Many of the arrests have taken place in immigrant neighborhoods, targeting residents from Central America.
A string of gangland murders, were used by President Trump to announce not only a federal crackdown on MS-13, but also to call for stronger immigration policies. He claimed MS-13 violence was the result of “weak borders.”
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“You don't blanket an entire community and project this issue onto every young person, tying it in to immigration status and the unaccompanied minors. You don't talk about those things in tandem,” Sergio Argueta, founder of STRONG Youth, a local gang prevention program, tells Al Jazeera.
By tying the two together, federal agencies were given a free hand at arresting and deporting illegal aliens. It is unclear how many of those remain detained or have been deported. “They were disappearing into the immigration detention system, and it often took parents days or weeks to even figure out where they were, much less to get them released and brought back home,” lawyer Paige Austin says.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Natasha del Toro and the Fault Lines team met some of the hidden victims of the crackdown - exploring how, in many cases, unaccompanied minors have been targeted and detained, without sufficient evidence to tie them to MS-13.
She also examines the relationship between ICE and local police, and how that partnership has spread fear in immigrant communities - leaving young, Central American teenagers in particular feeling trapped between a gang and the US government.
Watch the documentary below:
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