WASHINGTON - The arrests of six juveniles and four young adults for the gang-related murder of a 15-year-old Maryland girl in Fairfax County is highlighting the ongoing struggle police and other authorities are up against when it comes to battling gang violence.
FOX 5 spoke with experts who are helping families with loved ones caught up in illegal gang activities navigate the dangerous and sometimes deadly world they may find themselves involved in when their children end up in these circles. They say a lot of these families are immigrants who come to the United States looking for work in hopes of providing for their families. However, this often leaves children alone to fend for themselves.
"Supporting their children is number one in their hearts, but they have to work hard to provide for their families so it is tough," said Michael Leon, director of community wellness at the Latin American Youth Center, a non-profit development organization in the D.C. area that helps provide programs for low-income youths, young adults and their families. "Young people have to find a place to belong, and a lot of times, these young people come to the country late way after their parents come here or maybe sometimes before their parents come here, so the relationships with their families are hard as well. It is really tough and that is why you have to have people out there that build these influences for them to keep them out of trouble."
There are also questions about the immigration status of the ten people arrested in Fairfax County in the death of 15-year-old Damaris Reyes Rivas. Fairfax County police say it is their policy to not ask anyone reporting a crime about their status. Also, they do not ask questions regarding a person's immigration status if they are arrested in the county.
In neighboring Prince William County, Prince William Board of County Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart is opposed to Fairfax County's policy.
"[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] just doesn't have the manpower to do all of this," said Stewart. "ICE needs the cooperation of local police departments, local jails to check the immigration status, determine immigration status of all these bad guys. Everybody who is involved in a gang, everybody who has committed a crime, everybody who is a drug dealer - find out if they are here illegally, and if they are, get rid of them before they can commit a more serious crime like this horrendous murder that was committed recently."
Fairfax County police told FOX 5 any individual detained or arrested in the county is subject to their information being run through their internal database. The only time they would contact ICE is if the person was flagged to be detained or held.
Fairfax County police would not comment on the status of the ten people arrested in Rivas' murder and would not say of any of them had ICE detainers.