The president has made the gang a focus of immigration reform, and new research shows this may hand the group political capital
The Trump administration’s decision to place the MS-13 street gang at the centre of its immigration enforcement has helped the organization bolster its fearsome reputation and risks handing it further political capital, according to a groundbreaking study on the crime group.
La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 – formed in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants on the US west coast and since spread through Central America and the US – has been the subject of intense focus by the administration.
Hundreds of young women are killed every year and many face sexual violence in the world’s most dangerous land. Now the president wants to send 200,000 more Salvadorans back home
Inside an apartment block in San Salvador beneath the shadow of the volcano that dominates the city skyline, 20 girls aged between 14 and 18 are in hiding, fearing for their lives. Recently deported to the country of their birth from the US by Donald Trump as part of his evolving immigration clampdown, the teenagers are wanted dead by the street gangs that make El Salvador the most homicidal place on Earth.
Survival necessitates drastic measures when the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, or its rival 18th Street gang want you murdered. First, the girls – branded traitors for daring leave El Salvador to set up home in America – are given radical makeovers; new haircuts and new clothes along with sunglasses that are rarely removed. Then they learn to talk differently, walk differently. All trace of their previous existence is erased. Travel is arranged using bulletproof cars with tinted windows. Finally, the safe house is placed on a short-term lease; the slightest intelligence that the gangs have identified its whereabouts and they’re gone.