The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street gangs continue to expand their influence in the United States.
U.S. officials and three Central American countries announced in September that more than 3,800 members of MS-13 and the 18th Street gangs have been charged since March.
MS-13’s new ambitions were large, and its leaders pushed the extreme violence that is part of the gang’s DNA — to be promoted, members are required to kill for the gang.
The violence took hold in the D.C. region, too, where at least 15 killings have been tied to the gang since late 2015.
MS-13 has become a symbol for Latin-American violence. President Donald Trump has cited the gang as indicative of a broken immigration system that lets criminals roam easily across American borders.
MS-13 is often called a Central American gang, but it was actually founded on American street corners.
Refugees from Central America’s civil wars, many of them deeply traumatized, had originally banded together to defend themselves from the street violence in 1980s Los Angeles.
The gang only metastasized when the United States began deporting them.