WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — There could be another showdown looming in Washington, as President Donald Trump on Tuesday blamed immigration laws for the country’s fight against the violent MS-13 gang.
As CBS2’s Marc Liverman reported, Trump said if Congress does not tighten the borders, he would shut down the government.
“I’ll tell you I would shut it down over this issue,” Trump said.
Trump made the remarks at a roundtable discussion at the White House. The entire focus was to eradicate MS-13, one of the biggest and most violent gangs in the country.
The gang killed 17 people in 17 months on Long Island.
A picture displayed Tuesday showed actual weapons used by members – including a shotgun and a machete.
This came less than a week after the president’s State of the Union address, where Trump told the story of two teenage girls from Brentwood, Long Island — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — who were murdered by alleged gang members using machetes and baseball bats in September 2016.
The girls’ parents were overwhelmed with emotion after Congress’ standing ovation.
A big focus of the roundtable Tuesday was how nearly 30 percent of MS-13 gang members are coming to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors – the right age for gang recruitment.
“They’re looking at these 21,000 unaccompanied male children that came into this state as potential recruits to continue to fill in their ranks,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan, of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.
The gang members sometimes stay with families who U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) of Long Island said also might have ties to the gang.
“I think we have to do more through HHS to find out who these families are that they’re being placed with,” King said. “I think we should be fingerprinting these other families.”
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) also argued against temporary protected status, which he said makes it easier for gang members to stay.
“Why is it that 16 years later, someone would be in our country under something called temporary protected status?” Zeldin said. “It proves that something’s wrong with our immigration system.”
At the Tuesday meeting, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested more than 400 MS-13 members over the last few months.
The Department of Justice said there are roughly 10,000 MS-13 members across the U.S.