Collaborative Partnership Would Undermine MS-13 Campaign to Recruit and Victimize Unaccompanied Minors.
Suffolk County, NY - April 25, 2017 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a series of measures to weaken MS-13 and advance the objective to eradicate this criminal organization from the County following the brutal murders of four teenagers in Central Islip on Long Island. The proposals outlined would include working together with the federal government to establish a notification process to inform a local government and school district when an unaccompanied minor is placed in a community.
“We understand that to win this war, it will take a coordinated approach between all layers of government and the community, said County Executive Bellone. “These actions are intended to undermine MS-13 efforts to recruit and victimize the most vulnerable children in the community.”
The federal Unaccompanied Minor Program has been in existence in a variety of forms for decades. The landmark 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement established uniform national standards regarding the detention, release and treatment of all children in the custody of the federal government. Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement are the agencies responsible for administering the Settlement Agreement pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
Once an unaccompanied minor is released from ORR’s care and placed with a designated sponsor there is virtually no follow-up to ensure the safety and well-being of that child. Further, it is unclear which federal government agency is responsible for ensuring the safety of the child once he or she is placed with their sponsor or for ensuring their compliance with the signed ORR agreement. This poses an inherent danger since there is no way currently to ensure these children have not been corrupted by MS-13 or harmed by them.
The County Executive’s proposed measures would establish clearer guidance and provide additional support to Suffolk County and for localities across the country:
Make available federal funds to local law enforcement agencies that are combatting MS-13.
Provide gang prevention funding and local resources to communities where the federal government is placing children so that the obligation is not borne solely by local taxpayers.
Ensure that a process is in place that prevents individuals with gang ties from being placed in the community.
Establish a notification procedure from the federal government to local governments and school districts where children are being placed.
While the vast majority of unaccompanied minors are law-abiding individuals reuniting with family members who have successfully transitioned into the community, there are indications that MS-13 has sought to exploit the Program for the purposes of recruiting and victimizing children.
One effective strategy to undermine MS-13 would be to adopt comprehensive immigration reform to fix a broken immigration system, securing our borders and providing a path way to citizenship for law abiding individuals.