Feb 5, 2018
In his State of the Union speech, Trump said “for decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities ... they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.” He illustrated his point by telling the stories of two sets of Latino parents whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants in the MS-13 gang.
The vast majority of immigrants come here to work, not to prey on people. But it is certainly true that drugs are smuggled into this country by gangs that operate in many of the poor neighborhoods of the big cities, and that many people have been killed by these gangs and by the drugs that they bring in and distribute.
But where do these gangs come from?
The gang Trump called out, MS-13, is a product of the civil war fought in El Salvador in the 1980s. Students, small farmers, and farmworkers in El Salvador had launched a political movement that became an uprising against the landlords and capitalists that dominated the country and its government. The United States backed the Salvadoran government against this uprising, arming and training death squads that murdered thousands of people throughout the country.
Some of the refugees of this violence fled to Los Angeles, where they wound up in the impoverished Pico Union neighborhood. And a few of them formed a gang, MS-13. The U.S. then deported some of them back to El Salvador, where they established links with many of the same government officials and military officers who had worked with the U.S. in the civil war. These links allowed them to grow into the international drug gang they have become.
The violence of MS-13 was made by the U.S., and it started in the U.S., and was then exported to El Salvador, not the other way around.