FBI agents in New York have reportedly been arresting members of Trinitario, a Dominican gang, but characterizing them as members of the Salvadoran-American gang MS-13 to make Donald Trump happy, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
A senior New York state law enforcement official and a senior FBI official told the paper that agents were accusing the alleged Trinitario gang members of being part of MS-13 to “to meet expectations.”
During his State of the Union address in January, Trump made eradicating MS-13 a national priority. Trump referred to MS-13 as a “savage gang” whose members took “advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.” The president called for hiring more immigration agents to handle the threat.
But it turns out the FBI agents may be fudging the numbers because they just can’t find that many MS-13 gang members.
“Law enforcement officials at local, state and federal levels describe the Trump administration’s hard-charging campaign against MS-13 as out of proportion with the threat,” the Times wrote. Police and prosecutors in areas where MS-13 is most active told the paper that the targeted focus on MS-13 has come at the expense of fighting more critical and widespread threats, particularly opioids and human trafficking.
In some cases, law enforcement agents have gone out of their way to claim they have arrested an alleged MS-13 member, often using flimsy evidence.
In a 2017 case, WNYC reported law enforcement officials in New York accused an immigrant teen of being affiliated with MS-13 and sent her to jail for two-months. Officials arrested the girl because she had marijuana in her locker and a school police officer said he saw the teen speaking with suspected MS-13 members at school. The evidence didn’t hold up in court and the teen was released.
A 2017 class-action lawsuit representing 34 undocumented teens in New York who were accused of being MS-13 members resulted in at least 22 of them being released due to lack of evidence.
A spokesperson in the FBI’s New York office referred Splinter to the national press office. The national press office directed Splinter back to the New York office. No one provided comment.