It's about time ... 791155.htm

Senator wants to deny entry to immigrant gang members


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday said he was filing legislation to give consular officers the authority to deny U.S. entry to immigrants they suspect might belong to gangs, opening a new front on government efforts to crack down on the internationally notorious MS-13 gang.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion among local immigration and law enforcement officers in Broward County, Nelson, D-Fla., called for gang members to be shuffled into the same "inadmissible" immigration category that already applies to drug traffickers, terror suspects and other criminals.

That in turn would boost the penalty associated with helping an inadmissible gang member to sneak into the country illegally, from one year in prison, to 10. The senator plans to introduce the measure as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Adjustment Act on Monday.

Authorities have arrested two-dozen MS-13 members in South Florida so far this year, most of them illegal immigrants who were channeled into deportation proceedings.

"We do not want them to get a toe-hold here in Florida. This is the kind of thing that can get out of control," said Nelson, referring to the MS-13 gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha.

Initially based in Los Angeles, the MS-13 grew up as a clique of Central American immigrants fleeing civil war in the 1980s. The group has since spread to cities and rural outposts across the United States, while its brutal methods have made it the focus of a multi-agency U.S. task force since December.

The MS-13 is one of the most violent gangs operating in Central America and the United States. In one bloody episode, the group was charged with the December massacre of 28 Christmas shoppers on a Honduran bus. Nelson, just back from Honduras, noted that two MS-13 members were also convicted last month in Northern Virginia for the throat-slashing murder of a pregnant 17-year-old government witness.

Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne said local police were ahead of the problem.

"MS-13, while it is not a clear and present danger to the people in Florida, it is a potential problem for people in Broward County," he told an audience of officers and journalists Wednesday.