The media have been busy “fact-checking” Trump on his statements about the migrant caravans heading for the U.S. border, with a recent refrain insisting that the claim of criminals in the caravans is false.
CNN published an editorial by attorney Paul A. Reyes on Sunday under the headline “Don’t be fooled by Trump’s caravan misinformation campaign.” At one point in the article, Reyes zeroes in on the point about criminals traveling among the migrants:
Trump and conservative media outlets have also embraced the idea that the caravan is full of “hardened criminals.” In fact, the people who join such caravans often band together to protect themselves from hardened criminals, like drug cartels and human traffickers.
Reyes downplays the potential for trouble:
Trump has been pushing the false narrative that the caravan poses a threat to our country. Yet if these people reach the border, they can be processed like any other migrants and screened for asylum claims. The notion that they want to “invade our country” is a myth. The vulnerable people in the caravan hope to become part of our society, not to destroy it.
According to a young man interviewed by the Daily Mail, however, Trump is quite right. There are hardened criminals in the caravan he is familiar with – the first one – and they’re MS-13 gang-bangers.
He knows that because he’s a former MS-13 gang member who’s trying to leave the gang with his march to the north.
[T]he 18-year-old, an orphan who says he was lured into the gang at 16, told DailyMail.com he knows of at least ten of his former MS-13 cohorts who are hiding out in the mass of disheveled migrants marching north through Mexico.
‘I don’t agree with anything Donald Trump stands for but on this occasion the President is right,’ he warned. ‘People who deny there are criminals in the caravan are being naive. MS-13 are everywhere – they contaminate everything.’
The still-active gang thugs in the caravan have infiltrated it partly in order to spot teens and young men like him, who are trying to get away from the life.
[H]e warned that MS-13 bosses treat deserters as enemies and will have operatives mingling with the crowds to try to spot them.
He explained: ‘My brother is still in MS-13 and he told me they have contacts looking for people right now in the caravan.
This young man, who goes by “Pepito,” accepted Mexico’s offer of refugee status, unlike most of the people in the lead caravan. He also indicated that there were a lot of MS-13 members in the caravan in April 2018, although most of them ended up remaining in Mexico. But whether they are active MS-13 working for the gang or former members trying to get away from surveillance and threats, the migrant caravans represent opportunity – to get into either Mexico or the United States.
‘A bunch of people from MS-13 joined the previous caravan in April,’ he said. ‘Most of them ended up staying in Mexico. They robbed, they stole, some of them defected to other gangs.
‘When I was in the detention center I heard many people talking about joining the next caravan.’
The CNN editorial is posted with a video of Ohio Governor John Kasich lamenting that Americans are unwilling to open their arms to waves of migrants who show up unvetted at the border. It is not clear how he thinks it is to anyone’s benefit for MS-13 gang members to be admitted to the U.S. American communities can’t remain law-abiding and peaceful under such migration patterns. There is no model that shows importing gangs into peaceful communities domesticates the criminals. The patterns always operate the other way. No religious precept compels people to open themselves and their children up to danger in such a manner.
Helping teens like Pepito leave the gang life is a praiseworthy goal, but it needs to be done through dedicated efforts that focus on individuals and community situations. Striving for it doesn’t require allowing mass, unfettered migration into the United States.