• July 21, 2024

Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua used border chaos to infiltrate US

 Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua used border chaos to infiltrate US

JOE DID THAT !!

ByAnna Giaritelli

Tren de Aragua, a criminal gang from Venezuela that is said to be as serious a threat as the Salvadoran gang MS-13, is quietly operating in unsuspected neighborhoods and communities across the country.

The transnational corporation-size criminal group took advantage of the ongoing border crisis and has been able to push members into the United States and beef up its presence in cities nationwide where law enforcement and elected officials are gravely concerned about the type of violence they are seeing, particularly after one murder that has been in the spotlight.

Georgia nursing student Laken Riley was murdered in February while on a jog, and police have identified Venezuelan illegal immigrant Jose Ibarra as her suspected killer. Ibarra is a reported member of the gang, and that revelation has put the criminal organization in the spotlight as the case against him and his brother, who is also a suspected gang member, proceeds in court.

U.S. Border Patrol

The gang has been around just over a decade and in that time gone from operating inside prison walls to spreading across Venezuela into South America and, now, penetrating U.S. communities.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), whose district runs along nearly half of the southern border, said he has warned about the gang and is seriously concerned about the hold it already has in the U.S. given its record as an “agent of chaos and terror through Central and South America.”

“For months, I have sounded the alarm about Tren de Aragua and the threat this gang poses to Americans,” Gonzales said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “It’s graphic, but this gang has been known to rape children, murder, and commit nearly every other crime under the sun. We know that Tren de Aragua has expanded operations in Mexico, and some gang members have made their way into the United States.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who represents a state with one of the highest Venezuelan populations in the country, said in an interview that the gang has “wreaked havoc” across Central and South America and now threatens to do the same in the U.S.

“It’s worked its way into the United States and has now been linked to human smuggling and sex trafficking operations in the U.S.,” Rubio told Fox News on June 5.

How Tren de Aragua came to be

The gang named itself roughly a decade ago but got its start years before, according to the Venezuela chapter of Transparency International, a research group founded by former employees of the World Bank.

“It has its origin in the workers’ unions that worked on the construction of a railway project that would connect the central west of the country and that was never completed,” the research report stated. “By then Héctor Rutherford Guerrero Flores, alias ‘Niño Guerrero,’ was the [leader] of the Aragua Penitentiary Center, better known as the Tocoron prison. Although the criminal organization emerged outside the prison, the prison quickly became its base of operations.”

More than 11,000 Venezuelan police and military raided the Tocoron prison last year but not before many prisoners escaped. Inside the prison where the gang’s leadership operated, authorities found restaurants, a swimming pool, and stockpiles of ammunition and guns.

From Venezuela to America

The Washington Examiner reported in May 2023 while visiting the border in El Paso, Texas, that Venezuelan gang members were living on the street downtown after being released into the community from the border.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, nearly 700,000 immigrants from Venezuela have been encountered at the southern border compared to fewer than 200 Venezuelans encountered each month at the end of the Trump administration.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens has confirmed the gang’s many attempts to enter the U.S. and attempted to sound the alarm through posts on social media that began late last year.

“Keep your eye on this gang. Their criminal activities represent a serious threat to our communities!” Owens wrote in a statement to X.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The problem for Border Patrol agents is that they can only screen illegal immigrants in custody against available information. Venezuela is not friendly with the U.S. government and does not share in-country crime data, making it difficult for agents to know if an individual in custody is a convicted criminal back home.

Tren de Aragua members conceal themselves amongst the general population of Venezuelan immigrants seeking asylum or work in the U.S.

Without adequate bed space to detain immigrants long term and Venezuela’s refusal to accept repatriated citizens from the U.S., the government has been forced to release most of them into the country.

In one weekend last month, Border Patrol agents stationed in Texas caught 10 Tren de Aragua members attempting to enter the country from Mexico, according to Owens.

Crime spree in US cities

Federal law enforcement has launched more than 100 investigations into crimes in which Tren de Aragua members are involved, according to an NBC report.

The types of crimes go beyond drug dealing and extortion, which are common money-making tactics for gangs in general. Tren de Aragua is reportedly involved in wide-scale sex trafficking schemes across the country and shootings of police officers.

Earlier this month, two New York police officers were shot in the line of duty by suspected Tren de Aragua gang members who were taken into custody. Nineteen-year-old Bernardo Raul Castro-Mata of Venezuela was arrested for the shootings and had tattoos affiliated with the gang, including a five-pointed crown, five-pointed stars, and teardrops, according to the New York City Police Department.

The gang is also believed to have a deep network of sex trafficking and extorts female immigrants who owe its members tens of thousands of dollars for smuggling them into the U.S.

“Stash houses,” where people are held by the gang without the freedom to leave, were busted in Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey, and Florida, where several Tren de Aragua members were arrested for running a sex trafficking ring out of the houses, according to a criminal complaint shared with CNN.

U.S. Border Patrol

The men facilitating the trafficking ring threatened the women being held against their will and said they would kill their family members in Venezuela if they did not cooperate and recoup the debt for being smuggled into the U.S. by performing sex acts.

In January, 23-year-old Yurwin Salazar-Maita was arrested for luring, abducting, and murdering a retired Venezuelan police officer in Florida.

Federal authorities have not disclosed incidents involving the incest and abuse of children. Lawmakers, including Gonzales, have access to closed door briefings with intelligence and national security officials and are aware of details not yet publicly known.

Getting a hold of the gang before it’s too late

The FBI is tracking the gang, according to Director Christopher Wray.

“We have ongoing engagement with intelligence community partners, state [and] local law enforcement in some cases, foreign partners in looking at whether it’s their drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, you know, different kinds of violent crime, different kinds of trafficking and smuggling, even things like organized retail theft,” Wray told lawmakers in a congressional hearing in April.

Gonzales pushed Wray to dive deeper into Tren de Aragua.

U.S. Border Patrol

Hispanic Republicans in Congress — Rubio, Gonzales, and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) — have pushed the White House to declare the gang a transnational criminal organization immediately.

“Heinous crimes committed by the Tren de Aragua, like the rapes of multiple children and the murders of retired police officer José Luis Sánchez Valera and nursing student Laken Riley, must stop,” the lawmakers, along with 23 other members, wrote in a letter earlier this year.

U.S. border officials screen immigrants, and those determined to be a threat for national security or public safety reasons are denied admission, detained, removed, or referred to other federal agencies, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Not designating Tren de Aragua as a transnational criminal organization would allow the group to expand within the U.S., they warned.

“By doing so, we can deploy more resources to combat Tren de Aragua and mobilize awareness around the gang’s activity. The time to act is now, and the window is closing before it’s too late,” Gonzales told the Washington Examiner.

Washington Examiner
@dcexaminer

How do you feel about the likely Trump-Biden rematch in the 2024 election?

Poll ends in 5 days •
  •  Excited
    39.0%
  • Concerned
    31.0%
  • Disappointed
    20.1%
  • Indifferent
    10.0%
5796 votes
44 comments

Washington Examiner
@dcexaminer

How do you feel about the likely Trump-Biden rematch in the 2024 election?

Poll ends in 5 days •
  •  Excited
    39.0%
  • Concerned
    31.0%
  • Disappointed
    20.1%
  • Indifferent
    10.0%
5796 votes
44 comments

Share on:
Freedom vs Tyranny

Editor @Investigator_50