In a marshy part of Cow Meadow Park in Freeport, Lengthy Island, longtime resident Cory Brewer bikes by the thick air and stops to soak up the greenery earlier than persevering with on to the waterfront.
Trailing close by, a flock of child geese, supervised by a dad or mum, crosses a mud path and plops into the water. A Latino father and his two youngsters watch the birds swim.
However someplace throughout the huge 171-acre park, a reminder of Freeport’s historical past of lethal gang violence lingers. There, in October, FBI authorities found the remains of a missing teenager, Javier Castillo, believed to be a sufferer of the violent avenue gang referred to as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
In a span of two years, there have been greater than two dozen MS-13-linked deaths throughout Lengthy Island, New York. However as disturbing and alarming because the gang’s grotesque homicide strategies are to residents, some really feel the focusing of the nationwide highlight on their group is curious, following President Donald Trump’s go to Wednesday, his second gang-related occasion in Lengthy Island since taking workplace.
Cory Brewer, who grew up in Freeport, misplaced a number of acquaintances to MS-13 murders relationship again to 2000.
“Trump will get into workplace, and now there’s an enormous whoop-dee-doo about it, when — what I learn about this case — folks have been dying from these conditions with the MS-13 gang for fairly a while,” Brewer mentioned.
A publicity stunt?
Since taking workplace, Trump has used the machete-wielding legal community with Salvadoran roots as half of a bigger push to crack down on unlawful immigration.
Throughout Wednesday’s roundtable dialogue in Bethpage, Nassau County, he used a controversial reference for MS-13 gang members for the third time in every week — “These aren’t folks, they’re animals” — to the cheers of attendees and native supporters.
Lengthy Island resident Patricia Dwyer, who had donned a “Girls for Trump” T-shirt for a small rally in Bethpage, mentioned she is worried about her immigrant neighbors, who’re most frequently the targets.
“They arrive right here. They assume they’re secure. They’re gonna work by and attempt to get citizenship or no matter, and so they’re terrorizing their very own communities,” Dwyer mentioned, “and so they’re like, ‘We got here all this option to expertise the identical factor?’ That’s not what America is.”
“We’re Lengthy Islanders, so we’re on this collectively,” Dwyer added.
However others surprise why extra consideration isn’t paid to different group issues of safety.
“I don’t perceive why individuals are not as involved after we speak about shootings and different stuff. Is it about race? That’s what I’m feeling now,” mentioned Gabriela Andrade, an Ecuadorian immigrant and group organizer with Make the Highway New York in Brentwood, Lengthy Island, a hamlet with a closely concentrated Salvadoran group.
“Is it as a result of we’re Latinos and we’re brown?” she requested.
One among 33,000 gangs
With an estimated 10,000 gang members throughout the nation, MS-13 accounts for only a fraction of the 1.four million members of “criminally lively” violent gangs, in accordance with FBI statistics, and is certainly one of 33,000 gangs within the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Migrants fleeing El Salvador’s 12-year civil conflict within the 1980s, flocked to Long Island, which by 2012 had grown to 100,000, in accordance with U.S. Census knowledge.
Throughout Wednesday’s roundtable, Nassau County Police Division Commissioner Patrick Ryder mentioned there are about 500 MS-13 members within the county, half of them lively.
“In 2017 we had six youngsters that have been murdered in Nassau County by MS-13,” Ryder mentioned. “Of these six, one was shot within the face. One was shot behind the top. 4 of them have been violently butchered by machetes and buried in shallow graves all through our county,” he mentioned.
“If he (Trump) can do one thing, God bless him. However I don’t see how anyone goes to cease this,” mentioned Dave Pinero, a lifelong resident of the world. “I do know lots of people from El Salvador, however they’re not MS-13, you already know? They’re hard-workers, how do you weed ’em out?”
Separating gang members from immigrants
“To me, it’s a conflict on immigrants,” Cory Brewer mentioned.
“It’s simply one other approach to make use of an excuse to invade folks’s privateness, so as to look into them and see if you happen to can principally deport them in another country in some type or matter,” he mentioned.
But, immigrants among the many city’s residents welcome the thought of eliminating the gang.
“When immigrants do dangerous issues, I believe that every nation takes care of that and tries to repair the scenario,” mentioned Javier Lechuga, a 26-year resident of Freeport. “I don’t assume the U.S. is any exception.”
Initially from Barranquilla, Colombia, Lechuga, who has labored as a waterfront restaurant cook dinner and handyman on Woodcleft Avenue since he arrived within the U.S., feels the MS-13 gang has develop into much less menacing lately, to his aid as the daddy of two, together with a 17-year-old son.
However throughout Lengthy Island, he says any resolution to eradicate a violent group with out putting targets on law-abiding Latinos — like his family — is difficult. He seems to his son for instance of the success that comes from hard-working immigrant households.
“My son acquired honors at school, and certainly one of his certificates has the signature of President Trump,” mentioned Lechuga, holding again tears.
“That makes me very proud, as a result of in the event that they’re speaking about my group, I consider my son exceeds the dangerous popularity typically attributed to immigrants.”
Spanish Service reporter Celia Mendoza contributed to this report.