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America Is Too Lenient on Gang Violence

(Alex Wroblewski/Reuters)

Much to my dismay, conservative media journalists have conflated political stances against illegal immigration with criminal gang activity.”

Criminal street gangs in America remain a formidable public adversary; their criminal activities include narcotics and human trafficking, violent street crime, and the exploitation and re-victimization of vulnerable populations, including immigrants. Much to my dismay, conservative media journalists have conflated political stances against illegal immigration with criminal gang activity. This does not help at all. 

In a recent opinion piece at Conservative Review senior editor  Daniel Horowitz recounts the story of a Minnesota woman who was allegedly shot in her chest after first being held captive by two alleged Sureños 13 gang members. Horowitz blames “Minnesota nice” culture, left leaning media, and Democrats for having enabled the circumstances that led to this tragedy. Apparently to Horowitz, the welcoming of diverse people is now too disruptive to Minnesota’s reputation as “quiet and peaceful.” It would be more helpful, however, for Horowtiz’s readers if he suggested a better solution: prosecuting gang crime with a new federal law rather than taking partisan immigration stances. What we really need is comprehensive federal legislation to enable all federal law enforcement agencies and all United States Attorneys to prosecute criminal street gangs. 

While Horowitz should be applauded for raising awareness about the problem of gangs on the national front, his central thesis improperly locks in on immigration and conflates a public safety concern with a partisan political agenda. President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Vanita Gupta conveys that his foundation is, “deeply disappointed” at this type of response to the gang issue. Republican Congressman Doug Collins and Democratic House Member John Conyers (prior to the latter’s resignation) had both publicly commented on the need to address the gang crisis through more comprehensive legislation. It’s not just about immigration.

The Gang Crisis is comprised of crimes committed by natural born citizen and others alike. Apparently oblivious to gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples, which are regarded as American-born, Horowitz concentrates on “illegal alien” gang crime and “transnational gang violence.” The reality is there is a great concern within both non-immigrant and immigrant populations.

It seems Horowitz would only have his audience dissect a portion of the public safety emergency gangs represent, as opposed to the whole. In doing so, he underreports and fails to address the victims of all gang members—not merely victims of illegal alien gang members. A more ecumenical approach would lend more credence to Horowitz’s attack on the Left.’

Horowitz’s work would also benefit his audience by making more productive suggestions for change rather than basically calling for the display of victim photos in Congress. Such recommendations have—like gang crime statistics—been widely available for years. Simply put, despite the overwhelming gang crime calculations, no federal gang prosecution law exists despite attempts to legislate the removal of illegal immigrants suspected of being associated with gangs.  

Despite the fact that a federal gang prosecution law would contribute to Horowitz’s desire to combat gang violence or mainstream media dialogue from the Right and Left, its need is supported in greater depth by a wide-array of top experts. Any number of former Merion West columns and other media sources host a wide variety of renowned legal pioneers paving the way for a federal anti-gang law.

Poignantly, if Horowitz really wanted to direct attacks on the Left and towards the media’s indifference to gang crime victims, the lack of a federal anti-gang prosecution law would be the perfect weapon. Many of the spikes in gang crime occurred under the tenure of President Obama. Doing so would also recognize Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s campaign promise to “stop and dismantle” gangs in the Peach State. Similarly, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has told us that, “It’s Time to Stand Up to Gangs.”  

Admirably, Horowitz lends a sympathetic voice to gang crime victims. This is something the mainstream, liberal media refuses to do, and Horowitz accurately details this. Horowitz conveys that the severity of gang violence and counter-culture is something that America is not currently prepared to handle. This is accurate, but we should start with a federal anti-gang law. Until media figures such as Horowitz put pressure on politicians to enact a set of laws to protect America from gangs at the national level, gangs from SUR 13 to the Vice Lords will continue to have an advantage over law abiding citizens.

Strictly speaking, politicians and media, conservative and liberal alike, need to stop being so universally “Minnesota nice” to the increasing public safety threat of criminal street gangs.

Bill Black is a Georgia attorney who graduated with honors from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School where he was Editor-in-Chief of the John Marshall Law Journal. In addition, Mr. Black is concluding his LL.M. degree at Georgetown University Law Center and is a veteran of the United States Air Force. Among other topics, Mr. Black has previously published on the issue of improving memorials and recognition for African American veterans of World War I.

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