• The Trump administration has zeroed in on the threat of drugs and crime.
  • But the relationship between transnational drug traffickers and gangs in the US is complex and varied.
  • Policies that don’t account for those relationships are likely to fail.

President Donald Trump repeatedly referenced the threat of drugs and violence brought to the US by Mexican cartels during his presidential campaign.

Less than a month into office, he signed an executive order directing the federal government to “thwart transnational criminal organizations” and calling for the removal of foreigners involved in those organizations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said repeatedly he plans to go after the illegal drug trade to bring down violent crime, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased arrests of undocumented immigrants, expanding their search to those who were not previously targeted for removal.

But since Trump took office, his and Session’s focus seems to be less on transnational criminal groups like Mexican drug cartels and more on criminal groups active in the US — specifically MS-13, formed in the US in the 1980s by Central American immigrants who were deported to their home countries in the 1990s, where the gang expanded rapidly.


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Featured image courtesy of ICE