WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal agents have arrested more than 1,300 suspected gang members, including 343 with violent criminal histories, in the past three months, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Tuesday
"Violent foreign-born gang members and their associates have more than worn out their welcome, and to them I have one message: good riddance," Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a news release.
Of those arrested, 374 face criminal charges, officials said. The rest face deportation, they said.
During the nationwide crackdown, immigration and customs agents worked with law enforcement counterparts in 23 cities in what officials described as a "summer surge."
The most arrests were made in the New York area (205) and Miami, Florida (160), but gang members were arrested in cities as small as Boise, Idaho, and Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Myers told a Washington news conference that some of "the worst of the worst" gang offenders had been taken off U.S. streets.
One of the gangs targeted has been MS-13, which is believed to be the fastest growing group in the United States as well as one of the most violent, the agency said.
The FBI estimates MS-13 has about 10,000 members in the country, along with tens of thousands in Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, where the gang originated in the late 1980s.
"MS-13 still seems to be the primary gang and the most violent gang still out there, and it is penetrating throughout the United States," said Marcy Forman, director of investigations for the agency.
Don Hunter, sheriff of Collier County in southwest Florida, said MS-13 was present in what he called the "upscale" community.
"We are not unique, we have transnational gangs, we have homegrown gangs," Hunter told the news conference. But he said cooperation among federal and local agencies had made it possible to put a dent in gang operations.
The sweep was part of the agency's Operation Community Shield anti-gang initiative, which started in 2005, and has resulted in arrests of more than 7,000 alleged members and their associates from more than 600 gangs, the agency said.
Brigitte Gabriel, founder and president of the American Congress for Truth, recently had the opportunity to testify before Congress about her concerns on the Islamic threat. She told members that various terrorist groups al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and Hamas, among others, are working with the MS-13 gang in smuggling terrorists across the Mexican border into the United States.
"The MS-13 gang is bad news. They are thugs. They are murderers. They are as bad as the Islamic radicals. These guys do not think twice about killing. They will kill their own family members. And this is why they found a great ally in the terrorist organizations," says Gabriel.
FBI: "Catholic" MS-13 won't team up with Islamic terrorists!?!
If Michael Chertoff is confirmed as Department of Homeland Security chief, he'll have his hands full reconciling conflicting positions within the administration regarding reported gang-terrorist activity.
By now, many of us have heard of the reported link between El Salvadoran-based gang Mara Salvatrucha — MS-13 for short — and Islamic terrorists. (Michelle Malkin has good background here)
In this morning's 9am ET hour of Fox New Live, reporterette Alyson Camerota said an FBI source told the network it was implausible that radical muslims would align themselves with a predominantly Catholic criminal gang.
Are we to believe that MS-13 gangsters — criminals accused of raping handicapped girls and chopping off fingers with machetes — would never team up with Islamic terrorists for religious reasons?
Camerota later ran a bite from Homeland Security official John Torres saying his agency had no evidence of a MS-13-al-Qaeda connection.
Maybe they got evidence NOW?
How FBI is handling terrorism
Labels: ms-13 gang, terrorist