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12 Gonz. J. Int'l L. [1] (2008-2009)

handle is hein.journals/gjil12 and id is 1 raw text is: 







   Creating a Monster:  MS-13  and  How  United  States Immigration   Policy Produced  The World's  Most
                                        Dangerous   Criminal  Gang

                                              Casey  Kovacic*

1. Introduction



Mara Salvatrucha (which roughly translates to Gang of Salvadoran Guys) or MS-13 as it is commonly known,
formed on the streets of Los Angeles following the mass exodus of Salvadorans during the country's brutal civil war
in the late 1980s.[1] It has been referred to by mainstream media as both the most dangerous gang in America[2]
and the world's most dangerous gang.[3] As the gang grew, the United States government took note.[4] It
expanded  immigration and criminal laws to permit law enforcement and immigration agents to send many gang
members  back to their home countries in Central America.[5] The result was a homeland explosion of gang
membership  and violence, wrecking havoc on poor Central American communities and eventually returning to the
United States more powerful than ever.[6]

In the roughly twenty five years since its inception, MS-13 has turned into a truly international gang with members in
El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and throughout the United States.[7] This article discusses the gang's
origins in Los Angeles and how the flawed immigration policies of the United States are directly responsible for MS-
13's massive membership and violent global effects. It concludes by proposing several effective remedies to control
the gang's reach rather than simply shifting our nation's problems elsewhere.



II. The Origins and Expansion of MS-13



In the 1980s, as the United States spent five billion dollars to support the El Salvadoran government in its civil war
against a communist insurrection, more than one million Salvadorans, roughly one-fifth of the country's population,
fled the country to seek peace and economic prosperity in the United States.[8] Most ended up in Southern
California.[9] It was there, on the streets of the Pico Union and Westlake neighborhoods of Los Angeles, that
Salvadoran youths bonded together.[10] The young immigrants, seeking protection against the established Mexican-
American gangs of the area, formed a gang of their own.[11] Many of the members had fought with the leftist
guerillas during the civil war while others were battle hardened by the bloodshed they witnessed.[12] In either case,
most of the founding gang members were  intimately familiar with violence.[13] The streets of Los Angeles served as
a finishing school for the members of MS-13 as they learned quickly the importance of organization and violence to
survive.[14] Within a decade, MS-13 had become one of the largest and most violent gangs in Southern
California.[15]

As the gang grew, members  accumulated removable criminal offenses for which they were often deported back to
Central America.[ 16] The deported members returned to a country beset with post-war despair and chaos, and the
disaffected youth population served as an ideal recruiting base for the growing gang.[17] The Salvadoran cliques of
MS-13 were  even more violent than their northern counterparts.[18] According to reports, of the approximately
2,500 murders in El Salvador in 2004, roughly one-third were MS-13 related.15

The result of the gang's activities in Central America was the creation of a world-wide gang. Today, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that MS-13 has 10,000 members in 42 states, and an additional 50,000
members  live in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.16

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