The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced the detention of 792 alleged gang members in a nationwide raid, including alleged members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.
The raid, dubbed "Project Nefarious," saw arrests in 150 cities, targeting members of 28 transnational gangs, reports Univision. Some 290 of the detainees were foreign nationals, hailing from countries including El Salvador and Honduras.
Only 479 of those detained are facing criminal charges. Many of the foreign nationals with irregular immigration status will likely face deportation. In Chicago, for example, just three of the 29 detainees are facing criminal charges, while the rest detainees are in deportation proceedings.
InSight Crime Analysis
Deportations from the US played a key role in strengthening criminal networks in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in the last two decades. MS-13 and Barrio 18 originally started out as street gangs in Los Angeles, but spread to Central America when the US repatriated thousands of gang members back to their home countries, This spurred the groups to evolve into sophisticated criminal organizations in the region, particularly in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
The majority of the foreign nationals deported back to Central America are not convicted criminals. Of the more than 27,500 people deported to Honduras in 2009, three-quarters had not been convicted of any crime. Of the just over 30,200 people deported Guatemala and around 21,000 sent back to El Salvador that same year, 21.5 percent and 30 percent, respectively, had a criminal record. Last year, an average of 1,500 Honduran nationals were deported per month.