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.