Local officials believe illegal immigration leading to increase in gang-related crime

- The Supreme Court’s deadlock ruling that essentially blocks President Barack Obama’s immigration plan to help millions living in the country illegally comes as our local communities are seeing an increase in violent crime and murders, especially among Latino gangs operating in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Local officials said they are facing a crisis and want the federal government to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books.

Just days ago, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger told the county council that his department is facing a surge in gang-related crime and homicides. In 2015, the police department investigated eight gang-related murders – a total that quadrupled over the previous year.

Many experts will say it is the Latino communities themselves that are bearing the brunt of this violence and both law enforcement and political leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia say the increase gang violence is connected to the wave of unaccompanied minors to the United States.

Many have come to the country during a crush of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border in 2014. While many young people didn't come to the D.C. region as gang members, police said they have been targeted, bullied and drafted into joining gangs as a result of not being supervised or monitored by the federal government after they were allowed enter the U.S.

Advocates for racial diversity and opportunities for immigrants caution against throwing up any barriers to these groups. But Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, is sounding an alarm.

"We warned two to three years ago that this influx over the border of illegal aliens was going to cause an increase in MS-13 and other gang-related crime,” said Stewart. “It’s happening. We are seeing it happen. It is not just in the border towns. It is happening all across America and we are seeing it especially here in Northern Virginia and the D.C. region."

“Diversity matters. It recognizes that race matters in our society and it is factored in the appropriate way,” said Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. “It also sends a very powerful message that educational benefits will help break down these stereotypes that continue to plague our community.”

CASA de Maryland, an organization that advocates for Latinos, said in a statement they were disappointed by the Supreme Court immigration ruling on Thursday.

FOX 5 has reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but they have not responded to our request for comment. 

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