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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

August 3, 2005

Written by C.N.

Raids on Illegal Immigrant Gangs

CBS News reports that federal agencies, headed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (part of the Homeland Security Department) have recently conducted several raids against street gangs around the country, many of whom are comprised primarily of illegal immigrants:

Investigators targeted members in 27 states of what they considered to be the most violent street gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13; Sureños; the 18th Street Gang; Latin Kings; the Mexican Mafia; Border Brothers; Brown Pride and numerous others. The crackdown is part of ICE’s ongoing “Operation Community Shield” campaign, targeting gang activity with other federal and state authorities.

So far, ICE has made 1,057 arrests as part of the sting. In March, the operation netted 103 members of MS-13, a street gang rooted in Central America where members have been known to behead enemies and attack with grenades and machetes. Federal officials estimate between 8,000 and 10,000 MS-13 members live in 31 states — the majority of them in the country illegally.

I’m not sure how many Asian American gang members are involved here, since it appears that the federal agencies are targeting mainly Mexican and Latin American gangs. As an unabashed liberal, I tend to support immigrant rights, including those of illegal immigrants.

I feel that illegal immigration is a structural problem and that in order to address these issues, Americans need to focus their attention and efforts at the institutional level, rather than demonizing and vilifying the illegal immigrants themselves, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding (and as research consistently shows, contribute significant benefits to the American economy).

However, I support these crackdowns on gangs because when illegal immigrants become violent criminals, they give all immigrants, legal and illegal (as well as all people of color), a bad name and further antagonize Americans into fits of xenophobia and racial prejudice, which is then directed at law-abiding immigrants (legal and illegal) and people of color in general.

I understand the motivations of joining gangs in the first place (i.e., alienation, frustration, hopelessness, etc.), but there are enough legal and community-supported programs for young at-risk people of color so that there really is no excuse for them to turn to violent crime. For the greater good of all illegal immigrants in the U.S., I hope that the authorities succeed in cracking down on the small proportion of whom are violent criminals.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Raids on Illegal Immigrant Gangs" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/08/raids-on-illegal-immigrant-gangs/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=115