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Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump often brings up the violent gang activity of MS-13 in defense of his hardline immigration policies, saying of Democrats on Saturday, "our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders; let MS-13 all over our country."

Bottom line: MS-13 is an extraordinarily violent gang made up of around 10,000 members, mostly from Central America. But they're not growing, they're likely not involved in an extensive drug trade and most immigrants crossing the border are not trying to join them, according to ProPublica's Hannah Dreier, who has followed the gang for over a year.

What's right:
  • The street gang is known for violently murdering their victims, often teenagers. It is heavily concentrated in a few areas like Los Angeles and Long Island, where the gang recruits members. MS-13 causes the most harm in specific, mostly immigrant communities.
  • Members participate in some illicit drug activity, human trafficking and inter-gang intimidation and violence.
  • Members are predominantly Central American, and mostly from El Salvador. The gang originated in L.A. in the 80s before the U.S. deported more than 20,000 criminals over 4 years to El Salvador, where there the gang grew in number and recognition, according to the Atlantic. The Salvadoran government responded by jailing 31,000 young people in the early 2000s, which only exacerbated the problem.
  • Due to their presence in the U.S., Central America and Mexico, MS-13 was the first gang to be labelled a "transnational criminal organization" by the U.S. government.
What's wrong:
  • They are likely not part of an expansive drug smuggling network. Many experts who study the gang's activities say that their violence is typically inspired by inter-gang rivalry.
MS-13 is hardly a lucrative network of criminal masterminds. Instead, it is a loose coalition of young, often formerly incarcerated men operating hand to mouth across a vast geographic territory.
— Steven S. Dudley, senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, in an op-ed for The Conversation
  • They're not the largest gang out there. MS-13 is significantly smaller in membership than the Crips, the Bloods, the Latin Kings and even lesser-known gangs such as the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, according to ProPublica.
  • Plus, many crime experts say that the threat of the street gang has been significantly reduced due to recent increased law enforcement activity, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • One key quote from ProPublica's Hannah Dreier explains that MS-13 are not waging war on the U.S at large, but on specific communities — often immigrants:
    • "I’ve explored the wooded areas Long Island police call 'the killing fields,' where bodies have been found. I feel safe doing this because MS-13 rarely goes after true outsiders — people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment. The closest I’ve found in Long Island to a totally random victim was a worker at a Central American deli who was hurt when a bullet passed through the head of a targeted victim."
By the numbers:
  • There are 1.4 million gang members in the U.S., and only roughly 10,000 of them are members of MS-13.
  • Of the 114,434 people ICE deported in 2016, only 419 were MS-13 members, according to data given to CNN.
  • Only 0.1% of families caught crossing the border illegally were faking as families, and none had any known connection to MS-13.
  • Of the roughly 190,000 unaccompanied minors caught crossing the border from 2012 to June 2017, only 56 were "suspected or confirmed" to have connections with MS-13, according to CBP.
  • While not far-spread, MS-13 is substantially destructive in the smaller communities it ravages — for example, making up 38% of all homicides in Suffolk County, according to the Atlantic.

Go deeper

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CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

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Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

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The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A pricetag of $500-$555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.