S.-Mexico boarder. Not only this, but the strengthening of the drug trade, as well as the potential for human trafficking and the smuggling of terrorists poses a potential catastrophe for the United States. While the U.S.-Mexico boarder has always been an area of contention among policy makers, the MS-13 gang makes the argument less about social policy and the future of immigration, but about criminal activity and the safety of citizens. If the gang is able to successfully organize, a network of criminals stretching between some of the world's most dangerous regions and the United States will have been established, allowing for the potential crumbling of the United States from within. At this point, the criminals would not even need to cross the boarder to communicate, as they could engage in communication through electronic means or word-of-mouth without even risking an attempt to cross the boarder. A second terrorist attack as monumental as the 9/11 attacks could occur through the use of the criminal network that MS-13 could establish.
III. Implications for Law Enforcement And Counter-Terrorism
What is most ironic about the significance of the MS-13 gang and its implications for terrorism is the fact that the gang was ignored at first because of a focus on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. After the attacks, the FBI say "a definite shift in resources," resources that were shifted away from attempts to round-up MS-13 gang members (Flores and Romano, 2005, para. 4). But law enforcement officials would soon learn the important links between MS-13 and terrorism, turning the quest to stop the gang into an act of local and national protection. After the reallocation of resources, the FBI managed to find funds from other sources in order to counter the gangs, and the result has been rather positive (Flores and Romano, 2005, para. 4). The news is littered with stories of law enforcement agencies capturing MS-13 members. Most encouraging are those arrests that occur near the U.S.-Mexico boarder, suggesting that law enforcement officials are stopping MS-13 at the source. In fact, just a few days ago a boarder patrol agent arrested an MS-13 gang member near the Arizona boarder. The member had come to the United States illegally (U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, 2009).
But while law enforcement is certainly a primary channel through which these gang members can be apprehended, legislation is needed in order to properly eliminate the terrorist threat posed by this gang. Several bills were introduced in 2005 in order to track these gang members and ending their crime sprees. The North American Cooperative Security Act, an initiative for cooperation between U.S. And Latin American officials in order to better apprehend the criminals, was introduced alongside bills recommending mandatory sentence requirements and preventative measures, such as creating special task forces and increasing social services in countries most affected by the gang violence (Congressional Research Service, 2005, paras.14-16). Congress has enacted laws that make penalties harsher for certain gang crimes, as well as making deportation easier. Further, the interaction between local and federal agencies in order to prevent gang violence has helped address the issue, along with the Department of Homeland Security, which "plays a role through the enforcement of immigration and criminal law" (Congressional Research Service, 2007, pg. 11).
IV. Conclusion and Recommendation
The M.S.-13 gang has presented a new kind of threat to the United States. Comparing the gang to the traditional image of the mafia is only applicable to a certain extent. While the gang certainly is as violent as the mafia, and is beginning to achieve similar levels of organization, the MS-13 gang is even more dangerous because of its transnational implications, especially those regarding terrorism. In order to fully protect the United States from the terrorist threat that is certainly dominate, the United States must devote more resources to infiltrating this gang. Further, Congress must continue to play an important role in drafting legislation to target the gang. While Congress has already attempted to put in place mandates that require certain gang members to serve a minimum of years in prison, even though law enforcement officials are aware that certain offenders are members of the gang, they receive minimal prison sentences. For instance, one member of MS-13 was recently sentenced to 34 years in prison followed by five years of "supervised release," despite the fact that he is a known leader of the organization, and will probably be conducting MS-13 work from inside the prison (Federal Bureau of Investigation: Baltimore, 2009). Otherwise, MS-13 becomes a perfect resource for terrorists to use, passing messages and weapons into the United States.
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