The Obama administration allowed over a dozen MS-13 gang members to enter the United States after they were caught crossing the border as illegal immigrant teens in 2014, the Washington Times reported, citing the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) noted Customs and Border Protection documents Wednesday, which said the 16 admitted gang members were then taken to juvenile homes throughout the country, the Times said.
“CBP apprehended them, knew they were MS-13 gang members, and they processed and disbursed them into our communities,” Johnson said, according to the paper, adding that a whistleblower turned over the documents.
More from the Times:
The gang members were part of the surge of UAC, or “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government labels them, who overwhelmed the Obama administration in 2014, leaving Homeland Security struggling to staunch the flow from Central America.
Officials at the time said the children should be treated as refugees fleeing horrific conditions back home — though security analysts said the children were prime recruiting territory for gangs already in the U.S.
Mr. Johnson said the image of UAC as little children is misleading. Out of nearly 200,000 UAC apprehended between from 2012 to 2016, 68 percent were ages 15, 16 or 17 — meaning older teens. The majority were also male, making them targets for gang recruiting.
MS-13 is among the most notorious and feared gangs, whose members are known — among other things — for using machetes to behead and dismember those who defy them, the Times said. Two suspected MS-13 gang members in Texas — also illegal immigrants — were charged in March for the “satanic” killing of a teenage girl and a brutal kidnapping two others.
But Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), also part of the Homeland Security Committee, said while she wants to snuff out gangs, the release of the documents may have damaged active investigations, the Times reported.
“I have concerns that these documents were released so quickly,” she said, according to the paper.
The spike in the number of unaccompanied immigrant children entering the U.S. has been suspected of opening a new avenue of recruitment for MS-13 and other gangs, the Times reported.
Scott Michael Conley, a police detective in Chelsea, Massachusetts, told the paper that MS-13 is well-established on the West Coast, where it is heavily invested in drug trafficking, and in El Salvador, where its extortion network is deep.
Conley told the Times that MS-13 is still developing on the East Coast of the U.S. while it gets its leadership in place. But after that happens, he told the paper "you’ll start to see a more sophisticated gang."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it captured more than 100 suspected MS-13 gang members during a sweep that ran from March 26 to May 6 — eight of whom reportedly crossed the border illegally as minors.
Here's more on the spike in MS-13 violence: