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Border & Immigration

Federal Agency Seeks Outside Experts On Transnational Gangs

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests over 2,400 convicted criminal aliens, fugitives in enforcement operation throughout all 50 states.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests over 2,400 convicted criminal aliens, fugitives in enforcement operation throughout all 50 states.
Federal Agency Seeks Outside Experts On Transnational Gangs
ICE is seeking experts to provide training on gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and MS-18.

The country’s top immigration enforcement agency is seeking outside help to dismantle transnational criminal gangs.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has a National Gang Unit that has led the way in the arrest of more than 25,000 gang members since 2005, including those in the feared Mara Salvatrucha and MS-18.

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These criminal networks have grown so much that even ICE experts now need help.

The agency has asked for bids to provide training courses expected to lead to better investigations, infiltration of gangs — and thus produce more arrests and prosecutions.

One leading expert on international gangs praised the move by ICE, saying it’s always a good idea to learn from others.

“To assume you know — when you don’t — is a bad thing,” said John Sullivan, a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department in Los Angeles, where many of these gangs formed in the 1980s.

“The networks are rapidly evolving. The members shift and change over time and alliances between groups shift and change, so expertise from a year ago may be dated,” Sullivan said.

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But the move by ICE has prompted widespread confusion and even apprehension. It has left some wondering why ICE would need such advice in the first place, since they’ve already got plenty of experts on staff.

“It’s highly unusual. It may be sending up a trial balloon to see if they can get additional useful information,” said Thomas Ward, an anthropology professor at the University of Southern California who researches international gangs.

Officials with ICE declined to comment on this issue, citing the ongoing public bid process.

But the agency recognized the backlash within the law enforcement community and it announced it will revise the call for help.