President Trump will travel Friday to Suffolk County on Long Island to highlight a rise in violent crimes by the transnational gang MS-13, as the White House launches a renewed push to Congress to beef up funding for border security measures.
Trump’s visit to a county racked by violence attributed to the gang â 17 murders over 18 months, according to local police â aims to give his message that lawmakers must do more to combat illegal immigration a âpower and poignancy,â a White House aide told reporters in a briefing.
In a speech at Suffolk County Community College, Trump will deliver a âvery forceful message about just how menacing this threat is,â said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks. Trump will highlight âthe systemic consequences of our failure to enforce immigration laws over many years.â
Trump will try to rally Congress âto fully support what we in this administration think we need to do to end this threat once and for all,â the aide said.
Trump, who campaigned on stricter border security, has in recent months begun highlighting the threat from MS-13,Â whose formal name isÂ La Mara Salvatrucha, a gang formed in Los Angeles decades ago with ties to El Salvador and Honduras. In a speech this week in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump referred to violent gang members as âanimalsâ who terrorize their communities, including other immigrants.
âWe are throwing MS-13 the hell out of here so fast,â Trump said. âYou know, we’re actually â hard to believe that we’re talking about our great country. We are actually liberating towns and cities. We are liberating â people are screaming from their windows, ‘Thank you,’ thank you to the border patrol and to [Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s] great people that come in and grab the thugs and throw them the hell out.’â
Trump administration officials said they have begun implementing the president’s directive to target MS-13 and other violent gangs and cartels. The Justice Department has requested funding for 300 additional federal prosecutors, said Rob Hur, the principal deputy attorney general, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled this week to El Salvador to meet with officials from the Northern Triangle â including Honduras and Guatemala â in an effort to coordinate enforcement efforts.
Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his agency has arrested 3,311 gang members this year, including 100 in New York, a majority of whom were affiliated with MS-13.
âTargeting, arresting, and removing members of violent street gangs, such as MS-13, sends a clear message to criminal enterprises around the world:Â You are not welcome in the United States, and you’ll find no harbor here,â Homan said.
White House aides said Trump will use his speech to call on Congress to boost funding for the administration’s immigration crackdown, including the start of construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, 10,000 new ICE agents and 5,000 new Customs and Border Patrol officers, and to pass new laws to increase penalties on immigrants who enter the United States illegally, speed up deportations and penalize so-called âsanctuary citiesâ that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
The House approved legislation late Thursday that would allocate $1.6 billion to the wall, and administration officials said they will make a major push for that funding in budget deliberations with Congress over the coming months.
Yet immigrant rights advocates said the administration is inflating the dangers of illegal immigration to instill fear in the public as a way to build political support for its stricter policies.Â In Trumpâs first 100 days in office, ICE arrested 41,318 immigrants, up 37.6 percent over the same period last year. Almost 3 out of 4 of those arrested have criminal records, including gang members and fugitives wanted for murder. But the biggest increase by far is among immigrants with no criminal records.
Homan acknowledged that Trump had broadened the pool of undocumented immigrants considered a priority for removal, but he said the numbers are misleading because the Obama administration had sought to protect broad categories of immigrants from deportation. The numbers of non-criminals had fallen to such low levels, Homan said, that even a modest increase boosts the percentages.
Over the first 100 days of the Trump administration, 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18Â percent increase from the same period in 2016, according to ICE. Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000.
âIf we send the message that if you get into the country, you get by the Border Patrol, and don’t get arrested by local law enforcement for another crime, and no one is looking for you â that is a magnet; that is a pull factor,â Homan said. âWe got to stop that messaging.Â We got to tell people it’s not okay to violate laws in this country.â