"I'm Gang-American"—Salvadoran Illegals Want To Stay Where They Can Get Away With Murder

If only those poor Salvadoran immigrant Mara Salvatrucha gang members could get some decent job training and weren't so persecuted by the police, they could turn their lives around.

And Americans had better get some sympathy going for the MS-13 gang right away—because it is our fault, after all, that these unfortunates have become cheap, cowardly, murdering hoods.

So goes the preposterous theory advanced by Luis J. Rodriguez in his March 28th New York Times Op-ed titled "A Gang of Our Own Making." (E-mail the NYT "Public Editor" Daniel Okrent to protest this outrageous piece of nonsense.)  

Rodriguez is a Mexican-born, Los Angeles-raised former gang member who achieved short-lived notoriety when his book, Always Running: Gang Days in L.A, was published in 1993. (E-mail him too!)

Always Running, which graphically recounted Rodriguez's life as a gang member and convict, created a stir in academic circles when many school districts banned it for being too vivid.

As an adult Rodriquez gave up crime, began a career in journalism and became an activist for youth causes---particularly gang youths.

Rodriguez's latest project is trying to convince us that members of the most blood-thirsty gang ever, the Mara Salvatrucha, can be turned into responsible citizens if only they could get a chance.

And, suggests Rodriguez, the Mara Salvatrucha deserve all the efforts we can make on their behalf because:

"MS-13 is a result of our policy in Central America…"

Rodriguez argues that when 2 million Salvadoran refugees landed in the U.S.:

"Some of their children confronted well-entrenched Mexican-American gangs in the barrios where they landed. For their protection, they created their own groups, emulating the style of older Chicano gangs like 18th Street. MS-13, for instance, was born in the crowded, crack-ridden Mexican and Central-American community of Pico-Union, just west of the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles."

When their violent crimes became known to law enforcement, says Rodriguez, 40,000 MS-13's were deported.

But, contends Rodriguez, that idea backfired because:

"Sophisticated, tattooed, English-speaking young men raised and acculturated in the United States were sent to countries with no resources, no jobs and no history with these types of gangs.

"Soon the deported members of MS-13 and 18th Street began recruiting among homeless and glue-sniffing youth who had never been to the United States. In a few years, these new members were making their way to the United States, ending up in far-flung corners of the country and recruiting a new generation."

See how America is to blame?

We screwed up in Central America, didn't do enough for the refugees after they arrived and erred in deporting the most hardened of them back to El Salvador.

To make amends, we have to train these murdering misfits and then employ them in our local businesses.

According to Rodriguez, some gang members:

"…Wanted to be incorporated into the country, to be allowed to rebuild, to learn skills, to make decisions about bettering their communities and to stop being harassed or beaten by the police and attacked by death squads."

Furthermore, Rodriguez is bent out of shape because former MS-13 and 18th Street gangs formed

"A peace and justice organization called 'Homies Unidos' but their efforts over the years to obtain jobs, training tattoo removal and counseling were largely ignored."

All of this is staggering absurdity.

I crack up when I hear people lobby for more "programs." If the taxpayers in my home state of California knew the half of it, they would storm Sacramento. Even while running huge deficits, California has more programs than you can shake a stick at.

Rodriguez should know, but obviously doesn't, that all the job training in the world is available to anyone who wants it - even Mara Salvatruchas.

Here are a few options for the "homies":

  • Show up at the Los Angeles County Regional Occupation Program office. There, to list but a few options, they can get training to become dental or medical assistants, computer technicians or graphic designers. Classes are free or close to it.

  • For those among the Mara Salvatruchas who are US citizens or legal immigrants, they can get further career counseling and financial assistance through the Los Angeles-based CalWorks office.


In the unlikely event that a Mara Salvatrucha fulfills his commitment to going straight, there remains the hurdle of the real world.

Who in his right mind would hire a former Mara Salvatrucha gangster when the state is teeming with wholesome, eager job seekers?

Imagine what the typical MS-13 "resume" looks like: various stretches in the federal pen and multiple deportations isn't a very comforting picture for a prospective employee.

What to do with these guys?

The Mara Salvatrucha, largely ignored for years, is finally drawing the attention of the F.B.I. and the governments of Central America.

If deported, the MS-13s do indeed continue their lives of crime when they land back home. Not surprisingly, Central American leaders are pleading for help in dealing with the repatriated punks. [4 Presidents Seek Help in Gang Battle By Chris Kraul, Robert Lopez and Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2005]

The Mara Salvatruchas are human boomerangs with deeply entrenched violent habits. Since they re-appear in the US as soon as possible, the problem they present remains greater for America than El Salvador.

As one MS-13, Walter "The Scorpion" Cabrera, said:

"I cannot survive in El Salvador. I'm too Americanized. It's so hot there and there's no air-conditioning. I need hamburgers, macaroni, good pizza. I'm not really American or Central American. If anything I'm Gang-American." ["U.S. Deports Felons but Can't Keep Them Out," Deborah Sontag, New York Times, August 11, 1997. Pay Archive.]

To date, stopping the determined Mara Salvatruchas from re-entering the U.S. has been tough.

Jerry White, Painesville, Ohio, police chief said:

"It's been our experience that these people come back. We recognize the faces even though they're now using the maiden name of their mother's aunt twice removed."

In the end, as with all other immigration problems, the solution lies at the border.

Since most Mara Salvatruchas come back into the U.S. via Mexico, a sealed border would be the first step in keeping the gangsters off our streets.

Tightened borders may not represent the complete solution to the Mara Salvatrucha. But it's a great place to start.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.