MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats? [November 2, 2007] [open pdf - 156KB]
"Two predominantly Latino gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street gang (M-18), have raised concern among policy makers for several reasons: (1) membership in these gangs has spread from the Los Angeles area to other communities across the United States; (2) these gangs are becoming 'transnational,' primarily because MS-13 and M-18 cliques are being established in Central America and Mexico; (3) evidence suggests that these gangs are engaged in criminal enterprises normally associated with better organized and more sophisticated crime syndicates; and (4) MS-13 and M-18 gang members may be involved in smuggling operations and, by extension, could potentially use their skills and criminal networks to smuggle terrorists into the United States. To date, however, no evidence exists establishing a link between MS-13 and M-18 members and terrorists. […] At issue for Congress is whether the MS-13 and M-18 gangs constitute an emerging transnational criminal threat. The federal response to the MS-13 and M-18 gang problem has largely involved the enforcement of criminal and immigration laws, including the deportation of alien gang members. More recently, federal efforts have focused on prosecuting gang members under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. Deported alien gang members have established MS-13 and M-18 gang cliques in their home countries, and some experts suggest that U.S. deportation policies have effectively transported U.S.-styled gang culture to parts of Central America and Mexico. Moreover, evidence shows that deported alien MS-13 and M-18 gang members have established a 'revolving door' migratory pattern of repeat illegal reentry into the United States, raising concerns that these 'migratory' alien gang members may become involved in narco-trafficking, smuggling, and other criminal activities along the U.S.-Mexico border."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34233