Rep. Zeldin Hosts Roundtable Meeting in Riverhead with Local, State and Federal Law Enforcement Officials

Discussion on efforts to combat MS-13 and other gang violence, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and human trafficking.

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Congressman Lee Zeldin at a roundtable discussion on efforts to combat MS-13 and gang violence.

Photo by: Office of Congressman Lee Zeldin

Riverhead, NY - Sept. 18, 2018 - On Monday, September 17, 2018, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) was joined by House Committee on Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and local, state and federal law enforcement officials, as well as the immigrant parents of Justin Llivicura who was murdered by MS-13, for a roundtable discussion on efforts to combat MS-13 and other gang violence, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and human trafficking. Congressman Zeldin also invited the Long Island Farm Bureau to attend to discuss reforms necessary to our nation’s guest worker program.
Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary Bob Goodlatte said, “The problem we have with gangs and drugs is probably the most significant challenge law enforcement has and, perhaps with the opioid crisis today, the most significant danger to our citizens. According to federal authorities, these gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors and become more organized, adaptable, deliberate and influential in large scale drug trafficking. Gangs like MS-13 have gained greater control over drug distribution outside urban centers in suburban and rural areas.”
Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante said, “Since 2016, the department’s multifaceted approach has resulted in approximately 400 arrests of MS-13 gang members.  We have estimated that 600 MS-13 gang members and associates live in the county at this time and have been active over the last several years. MS-13 sustains themselves by constantly recruiting new members, particularly minors. MS-13 members recruit children in communities in Suffolk County through the UAC [Unaccompanied Alien Children] program. While the vast majority of these children live law-abiding lives, many of them are vulnerable to gang recruitment - they’re young, alone and adjusting to a new country, culture, language and seeking a sense of belonging. The current vetting and screening system of sponsors is in dire need of improvement. It is vital that the federal government place UACs in our communities after proper screening of sponsors, followed by measures ensuring proper guardian compliance; oversight is critical.”
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Angel Melendez said, “This year, in 2018, we’ve been able to arrest 20 human traffickers and more importantly rescue approximately 48 victims, victims of these transnational criminal organizations. The most recent one was last month when we were able to rescue a 15-year-old girl who was being trafficked by MS-13 here in Suffolk County. She was raped multiple times and was being held captive and exploited sexually. Working with our office in Virginia we were able to locate the victim and rescue her.”
The mother of 16-year-old Justin Llivicura who was murdered by MS-13 said through a translator, “Thank you for the cooperation of all of the authorities. I thank you all. I came to this country at 19 years old. I made my family here. My son was a humble boy and he never had a problem with anyone, and it hurts me a lot to have lost my son and thank you very much for remembering the name of my son.”
Robert Carpenter of the Long Island Farm Bureau said, “The most important part of any farm operation is a steady, reliable workforce. Farmers can’t feed our nation by themselves. It takes many hands and many hours of work. A reliable and steady workforce requires many different aspects since operations are unique and growing practices vary and are not easily replicated farm to farm. It has been my experience that the farmer workers on our farms are good, honest people who care about the farm and work hard. They want to provide for their families just like anyone else. In some instances, since their families are many miles away, workers want to be able to come here, do a good job and work hard and return home to see their loved ones in the off season. Many other industries and businesses throughout the United States, the restaurant and hospitality industry, construction, the small businesses on Main Street that need a good workforce rely on immigrants and the good people that come here. We ask for your help in crafting laws that provide farmers and businesses with a steady reliable workforce, not a program that’s based on government agency viewpoint, but a program that will truly help our farmers and businesses, one that will be adoptable to the needs of our different commodities without putting the additional burden on our operations with more regulation, time and effort or stipulations that could hurt business profitability. Let us remember that small businesses are the backbone of America.”