Nearly 30 percent of the illegal immigrant children the U.S. is currently holding in its secure dormitories have ties to criminal gangs, the government revealed Wednesday, suggesting the Obama-era surge of Central Americans has fed the country’s growing problem with MS-13 and other gangs.
Federal officials refused even to guess at the true scope of the problem, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that they can give only small snapshots of what they see. But they said the devastation on communities across the country is clear: killings and chaos, particularly among other immigrants — both legal and illegal.
The Border Patrol identified 160 teens who were known or suspected gang members when they first showed up at the border, but whom the Obama administration said it had to admit under U.S. law.
Meanwhile a spot check earlier this month of 138 teens being held by the federal Health and Human Services Department in secure facilities identified 39 of them with gang ties. Four of them were forced into cooperating with the gangs, while 35 voluntarily joined in, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
All told, HHS is also holding another 2,233 “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, in non-secure facilities, but it didn’t survey them to see how many have gang ties. The department believes the number there is likely to be lower.
“It is well-known that MS-13 actively targets and recruits children as young as 8 years old,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee who called Wednesday’s hearing.
“While their illegal status and Central American heritage are a key factor in MS-13’s targeting, without a doubt the failures of the current system for handling these children is also to blame,” he said. “The current system is fraught with abuse, systematic errors and a lack of effective cooperation.”
He was stunned that no agency could say how many “UAC,” as the government dubs unaccompanied alien children, have been recruited.