Trump responds to “Abolish ICE” with false claims America is being overrun by MS-13

As thousands of protesters gathered across the country to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the chorus of voices calling to abolish ICE grows, the president is going on the offensive. He’s warning of an America overrun by MS-13 — an America that doesn’t exist.

Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy and his administration’s increasingly aggressive actions have energized a progressive push to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE). Hundreds of women protested against the separation of migrant families and called for the end of ICE in Washington, DC on Thursday, and multiple Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio have joined in. A group of nearly 20 ICE investigators has called for the agency to be abolished, reformed, or restructured, and “abolish ICE” was a rallying cry at Saturday’s “Families Belong Together” marches across the country.

Trump is pushing back on the anti-ICE calls, in part by invoking MS-13 and warning that the gang might take over the country — or already has.

In a tweet on Saturday morning, the president lauded ICE agents as “one of the smartest, toughest, and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He then, inexplicably, said that he has “watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13” and “clean out the toughest of situations.”

In an interview with Fox Business host Maria Barroom set to air on Sunday, Trump said ICE agents “take [MS-13] out” and that they’re “much tougher than MS-13” by a “factor of 10.” He warned that if ICE is abolished, MS-13 will overrun the country to the point that “you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house.”

Bashar Ali, a writer for New York Magazine and HuffPost, previewed the remarks on Twitter.

MS-13 is not taking over the United States

MS-13, a Salvadoran-American gang, has a presence in a number of United States cities, including Los Angles, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Despite Trump’s claim last year that MS-13 had “literally taken over towns and cities,” there are no American municipalities ruled by it. Nor are there any that have been “liberated” from it.

Trump and Republicans have used MS-13 as a proxy to demonize immigrants and given it outsized importance compared to its actual impact. As Vox’s Dara Lind explains, MS-13 hasn’t reversed nationwide trends of declining violent crime (even in the areas where their presence is strongest), and the gang only has about 10,000 members in the United States — a fraction of the estimated 1.4 million members of US gangsnationally.

The president has sought to cast immigrants as violent and dangerous criminals who pose an imminent threat to the US. Just last week, the White House held an event highlighting families who have lost loved ones to crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, bizarrely autographing victims’ photos.


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