According to Montgomery County, Maryland’s Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger, his jurisdiction is experiencing an increase in gang violence, particularly from Hispanic gangs like MS-13 and the Latin Kings. A great majority of these gang members are illegal aliens, as detailed in our recent Center for Immigration Studies report, “Taking Back the Streets.”
The fact that Maryland is experiencing an increase in gang violence does not come as a surprise. Neighboring Virginia has been cracking down on illegal alien gangs – and illegal immigration, generally – for a number of years. New anti-gang legislation, increased police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and tightening of drivers license policies, for example, have made Virginia less welcoming for those violating the law.
Because Maryland is one of the most pro-illegal immigration states in the country, Virginia’s immigrant gangs have naturally begun relocating there. Maryland’s sanctuary cities, taxpayer-subsidized day labor centers, support for non-citizen voting, and lax drivers license laws are a magnet for illegal immigration and immigrant gangs.
Chief Manger reports that incidences of murder, rape, assault, burglary, and robbery increased in Maryland in 2008, much of it attributable to gangs. In fact, the FBI recently reported that gangs are responsible for up to 80 percent of crime in the United States. Aaron Escorza, chief of the FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force, says that gangs “evolve and adapt” to changes in policy and that gangs “know what law enforcement is doing. Word of mouth spreads quickly.” It seems immigrant gangs are spreading the word that Maryland is a safe haven.
Many are pessimistic that Maryland will change its policies any time soon. But the state’s sanctuary status is simply not sustainable. Maryland legislators have a choice – be part of the solution by following Virginia’s lead, or expect increased illegal immigration and gang activity.