Foreign-born gang members have unleashed a wave of violence in Northern Virginia — a viciousness that was unheard of 30 years ago, the head of a crime task force said Monday.
Jay Lanham, director of the Northern Virginia Regional Task Force, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Monday that law enforcement officers in Virginia’s Washington, D.C., suburbs never used to see beheadings.
“The difference in the violence is it’s very ruthless … They’re cutting off body parts. They are sending a message,” he said. “And you can imagine being hit by a machete. I mean, it does just horrible damage to the body. And that’s their weapon of choice.”
Lanham added, “When you go back 30 years ago, as you mentioned, we weren’t seeing the level of violence we’re seeing now. Today, the violence has really ramped up.”
Lanham said the average age of gang members is between 14 and 21.
“They’re recruiting very heavily. They have been for the past two or three years,” he said. “And those orders have come from El Salvador. They are focusing on these young kids, the ones that are in middle school and high school, and some even [at] the grade-school age.”
Lanham’s work in fighting gangs has a connection to the current debate over the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers deportation protection and work authorization to illegal immigrants brought to America as children. President Donald Trump has ordered it to end in March and asked Congress to come up with a legislative solution.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), cited U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics indicating that hundreds of illegal immigrants who have had their DACA status revoked because of gang ties have not been deported.
As of November 2017, USCIS officials had revoked DACA permits of 2,127 people based on criminal offenses or gang activity. Of those, only 562 had been deported. Another 90 were in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.
Of the rest, 535 had been released from ICE custody — and there was no record of detention, release or deportation for another 940.
Why would ICE release hundreds of illegal immigrants with gang ties after these people lost DACA protection?
“Being in a gang puts that offender in a different category. They are a much greater risk to reoffend and reoffend in a violent way.”
“That is a very good question,” Vaughan told LifeZette. “And there was no information provided on that.”
Vaughan said her conclusion is that ICE released illegal immigrants with revoked DACA status because they did not meet the narrow criteria for deportation priorities of former President Barack Obama’s administration. Vaughan said even an illegal immigrant with gang ties might not have been considered a deportation priority if the crimes, themselves, were relatively minor.
The 940 people with no federal detention records likely are illegal immigrants who were in state or local custody, she added.
Vaughan argued that anyone with gang affiliations should be deported even if they had been convicted of minor crimes — or had not been convicted at all.
“Being in a gang puts that offender in a different category,” she said. “They are a much greater risk to reoffend and reoffend in a violent way.”
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would exclude people who fail to pass a criminal background check. But Vaughan said those background checks likely would not flag illegal immigrants with gang ties who have not been convicted of crimes.
A bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to codify DACA into law would bar gang members.
Vaughan said only about 3 percent of the DACA revocations involved illegal immigrants without convictions or arrests.
Those statistics likely never would have come to light had Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) not demanded the information after police in Charlotte, North Carolina, charged a DACA recipient with murdering an “America’s Next Top Model” contestant in 2014.
Vaughan said the review by USCIS officials turned up hundreds of cases of illegal immigrants getting DACA despite convictions that should have negated their eligibility.
“What this says is that is some of these people should never have had DACA in the first place,” she said.