Immigrants who escaped MS-13 in Central
America have found gang members in the last place they expected: the
wealthy Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
In some cases, the same members of MS-13 driving violence in places like
Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have relocated to Northern
Virginia, haunting those that fled.
The Washington Examiner's Anna Giaritelli reports
Five federal and local officials who work on gang matters in the
region told the Washington Examiner that while they do not have a way to
calculate exactly how many people — asylum seekers, temporary protected
status recipients, immigrants, and those without documents — have been
victims of crimes committed by MS-13 and others, the immigrant community
in Fairfax County, Virginia, is often on the receiving end of
extortion, violence, and other crimes.
"We know that these gangs ... victimize their own communities. We know
that sometimes in these immigrant communities, they may not report all
the crimes to police and that people in these immigrant communities are
also escaping the gangs from their countries, and they're finding them
over here in the United States as well," said Francisco Klockner, a gang
prevention coordinator with the Fairfax County juvenile and domestic
relations district court.
Klockner is a member of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force,
which Congress created in 2003 to give the region's 15 cities and
counties a way to monitor, prevent, and stop gang activity in
Washington's backyard. In the 16 years since then, MS-13 remains the
biggest threat, especially in the immigrant communities its members
largely reside in and target. Two officials asked to remain anonymous
due to their direct work with gang members.
Massive criminal networks such as MS-13 are extorting immigrant
communities because of their proximity as co-residents and because they
know some will not report crimes to police. Victims or witnesses who
report crimes may face retaliation from the gang, while others, in the
country illegally, fear doing so could mean getting reported to U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
One million Virginia residents are immigrants. Approximately one-third of them live there illegally.
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