The organized criminal street gang MS-13, comprised primarily of illegal immigrants from Central America, is known for its chilling brutality – human smuggling, kidnappings, arms trafficking, rapes, stabbings, murders and even gruesome decapitations.
For example, the Washington Post offered a glimpse of MS-13’s horrific crimes in a November 2017 report:
As many as 10 members of the MS-13 street gang lured a man into a park in Wheaton, Md., spoke with one another over walkie-talkies as he arrived, stabbed him more than 100 times, decapitated him and then cut out his heart, according to police documents made public Wednesday in Montgomery County District Court.
In July, Fox News shared this example:
“MS-13 suspected that some of the men were from a rival gang, and directed the female associates to lure them to a community park … where a group of MS-13 members would be waiting to attack and kill them,” federal prosecutors wrote in the letter …
“One of the targeted victims ran immediately and escaped, but the group of MS-13 members and associates attacked and killed Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos, using machetes, knives and wooden clubs,” prosecutors wrote. “[The four victims] were surrounded by more than a dozen MS-13 members, including the defendants, and engulfed in a horrific frenzy of violence as they were brutally bludgeoned, sliced and stabbed to death.”
Authorities across the U.S. have been working to deport members of the criminal gangs for many years. So it was little surprise on Wednesday when Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mim, of California, complained to President Trump about restrictions placed on federal immigration databases and the process of identifying and rounding up MS-13 gang members.
Mims told Trump: “There could be an MS-13 gang member that I know about. If they don’t meet a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about them.”
The president responded to Mims’ concerns, telling her: “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”
Rather than providing the full context of the quote, many mainstream media outlets reported President Trump’s comments as if he had said all illegal immigrants are “animals” rather than using the term to describe MS-13 gang members. CNN, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and C-SPAN all shared an edited clip that omitted Mims’ question and the context for the president’s comments, Mediaite reported. CNN’s on-screen chyron even stated: “Trump slams some illegal immigrants: ‘They’re Animals.'”
CNBC’s John Harwood tweeted: “However repugnant their actions, MS-13 gang members are human beings IMHO.”
Even Mexico’s foreign minister expressed his outrage, saying Trump’s statements were unacceptable and that the Mexican government will file a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department.
However, the Associated Press admitted its mistake in a Thursday tweet that stated, “AP has deleted a tweet from late Wednesday on Trump’s ‘animals’ comment about immigrants because it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.”
AP has deleted a tweet from late Wednesday on Trump’s “animals” comment about immigrants because it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 17, 2018
Nonetheless, in a press conference Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted the president for making the “animals” comment about MS-13.
Pelosi began by saying, “Some of us who are attracted to the political arena, to government and public service” believe “we are all God’s children.”
“There is a spark of divinity among every person on earth, and we all have to recognize that as we respect the dignity and worth of every person,” Pelosi continued.
The House minority leader then added: “So when the president of the United States says about undocumented immigrants, ‘These aren’t people, these are animals,’ you have to wonder, does he not believe in the spark of divinity, the dignity and worth of every person?”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tore into Democratic lawmakers and media outlets over the issue Thursday, saying the term “animals” doesn’t go far enough to describe the brutality of “horrible, horrible, disgusting” MS-13 gang members.
“The president was very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members who entered the country illegally and whose deportations are hamstrung by our laws. This is one of the most vicious and deadly gangs,” Sanders said.
“If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13, they’re more than welcome to. Frankly, I don’t think the term that the president used was strong enough. MS-13 has done heinous acts,” the press secretary continued.
“It took an animal to stab a man 100 times and decapitate him and rip his heart out. It took an animal to beat a woman they were sex-trafficking with a bat 28 times, indenting part of her body. And it took an animal to kidnap, drug and rape a 14-year-old Houston girl. Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough.”
It’s not the first time the news media have piled on Trump for his statements about criminal immigrants. In a widely ridiculed speech in 2015 at Trump Tower, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, promised to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and told the nation: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists …”
To fix that problem, the future president promised he’d build a wall on the southern border.
When CNN asked Trump if he regretted saying “rapists” come across the border from Mexico, Trump doubled down: “Some are rapists and some are killers.”
Since he made his statements, U.S. Border Patrol agents have captured convicted rapists trying to illegally enter the U.S. In one case, Gustavo Hurtado-Juarez, 36, was arrested in Del Rio Texas on Easter Sunday after he crossed the Rio Grande River. Hurtado-Juarez had been convicted by a Tennessee court for aggravated statutory rape in 2010, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He had been deported after serving three years in prison for rape.
In another case in February, federal authorities in the Yuma Sector arrested a man named Hector Gutierrez-Perez just after he crossed the border. The Mexican national reportedly had a prior conviction in California for “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.”