U.S. Rep. Peter King met with President Trump and members of Congress at a roundtable meeting on Feb. 6 to discuss the ongoing efforts to fight MS-13, the international gang from El Salvador that is now active on Long Island.
The discussion, which included White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and a dozen members from various police departments, focused on immigration reform and strategic police control.
King, 73, a Republican from Seaford, who has served in Congress since 1993, said there needs to be better vetting of families who host unaccompanied minors entering the U.S., and he recommended that they be fingerprinted to check for any gang affiliations.
“There just needs to be more follow-up,” he said.
King represents the 2nd District, which also includes part of North Wantagh. He is currently in his 13th term and is gearing up for an election this November.
At the meeting, which King said lasted for nearly two hours, law enforcement officials said that members of MS-13 — which has roots in Los Angeles dating back to the 1980s — often recruit minors who have entered the country illegally.
The roundtable discussion followed a string of MS-13 related arrests and deaths that occurred in Nassau County in late 2017.
Seventeen alleged members of MS-13, also know as Mara Salvatrucha, were indicted by the Nassau County district attorney on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking on Jan. 11. Seven of the 17 were arraigned at Nassau County Court in Mineola.
According to James Hunt, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge, those arrested included the highest-level MS-13 leader in the Northeast.
The 21-count indictment charged the defendants with a variety of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking and conspiracy. All 17 defendants face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top charges, according to the D.A.’s office.
Two of the defendants, David Sosa Guevara, 26, and Victor Lopez, 29, were charged with murdering Angel Soler, 16 of Roosevelt, on July 21. They allegedly buried Soler’s body in a wooded area near the Baldwin-Roosevelt border, where it was found last October.
The arrests also followed the grim discovery of the remains of Javier Castillo, 19, of Central Islip, in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport on Oct. 25, and Kerin Pineda, 15, in a wooded area between Freeport and Merrick, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks that run parallel to Sunrise Highway. The teens’ murders were suspected to be MS-13-related, but none of the men arrested have been named in connection with them.
King said he would continue to secure funding for homeland security and bring more federal aid to the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments and prosecutors to fight MS-13. “Whether people like [President] Trump or not is irrelevant,” he said. [The Department of] Homeland Security, the FBI and the White House should be coming here and giving federal support to fight MS-13.”
According to the White House, Trump signed an order at the meeting that would improve screening of immigrants entering the United States and establishing the National Vetting Center, which will also help improve those efforts.
– Nadya Nataly contributed to this story