More than 600 gang suspects with possible international ties were arrested across 179 U.S. cities during a monthlong crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during its "Project Southbound" initiative.
The department's Homeland Security Investigations concluded the project April 13, and announced their findings May 1 in a release on the ICE website
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Working with local officials in each municipality, ICE arrested 78 suspected gang members on federal charges, 447 on state charges, and 113 on administrative immigration charges, for a total of 638.
"These are bad people with bad motives from bad organizations," said principal deputy assistant secretary Thomas Winkowski, according to The Associated Press
"Project Southbound is the largest-ever ICE operation targeting the Sureños gang," he added. The Sureños gang is the fastest-growing national-level gang in U.S. that has recently swelled to 30,000 members. "Targeting transnational gangs like the Sureños is a top priority for ICE and we will continue to disrupt and dismantle the violence and criminal activities that they inflict upon our neighborhoods."
The Sureños use the number 13 — which refers to the letter "M" as the 13th letter of the alphabet — to symbolize their ties to the Mexican Mafia. They serve as an umbrella organization for thousands of cliques and gangs, including the notoriously violent Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, founded in Los Angeles by civil war refugees from El Salvador.
The gang's criminal activity includes murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, extorting high school students, running brothels, witness tampering, obstructing justice and other crimes with a nexus to the border.
ICE's recent crackdown is part of a broader effort conceived in 2005 to rein-in street gangs with international ties. About 33,000 have been arrested under the program since its inception.
Among those arrested were a father and son in San Francisco, arrested on narcotics and firearms charges.
Fifty-four firearms, 13.36 pounds of methamphetamine, 82.76 pounds of marijuana, 3.075 pounds of cocaine, 1.44 pounds of heroin, more than $166,000 in U.S currency, and 10 vehicles were seized during Project Southbound.
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