Remarks as prepared for delivery
I want to thank the Organized Crime Council for convening today as they have done since 1970. We represent law enforcement from across the government: FBI; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; IRS; Labor Department; State Department; U.S. Postal Service; and the director of our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). This is the federal team, but we all know well that we have essential partners and leaders in our state and local offices. This can only be done together.
In February, President Trump issued an executive order to us to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, and today we’ll be proposing concrete ideas to follow through on President Trump’s directive.
So let me state this clearly. Under President Trump, the Justice Department has zero tolerance for gang violence. Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety. These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate.
MS-13 has become a symbol of this plague that has spread across our country and into our communities. There are over 30,000 members abroad with their headquarters in the El Salvadoran prison system. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, MS-13 now has more than 10,000 members in at least 40 states in this country – up significantly from just a few years ago.
Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors. They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults – MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools.
Just a few days ago, law enforcement believes that members of MS-13 murdered four young men and dumped their bodies in a park on Long Island. Last month, it was two teenage girls Brentwood, New Jersey* who were killed with machetes and baseball bats. A few weeks ago, the FBI added an MS-13 member to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List for a suspected brutal murder with a baseball bat and screwdriver – all purportedly to earn his MS-13 tattoo. Violence is an initiation rite. They’ve killed mothers alongside their children and vice versa. They have gang raped and trafficked girls as young as 12 years old.
We cannot allow this to continue. We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement and choke-off supply lines. If you are a gang member: We will find you. We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits. We will not concede a single block or street corner to your vicious tactics.
We recognize this will not be easy. But the organizations here worked together to take down the Mafia and the Colombian cartels. We can do it again. It will require a commitment from not only all federal, state and local law enforcement, but from everyday Americans who refuse to allow the current gang violence to be the status quo any longer.
Let me add: Sanctuary cities dangerously undermine this process. Harboring criminal aliens only helps violent gangs like MS13. Sanctuary Cities are aiding these cartels to refill their ranks and putting innocent life – including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants – in danger.
Today is just the beginning. There will be much more in the coming weeks and months as we seek to eradicate these transnational criminal organizations. Under the Trump Administration and this Department of Justice, there will be no safe quarter for gangs and those that support them.
Thank you again for being here. I’m happy to take a couple questions from the media and then we will get started.
*The original version of this speech mistakenly identified the location of the incident as being in Los Angeles.