Sen. Grassley wants answers after he says MS-13 task force may have been shuttered by Biden administration

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WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO) is demanding to know if an MS-13 task force set up by the Trump administration has been shut down amid fears that the current border crisis is increasing the number of gang members entering the United States.

Former President Trump’s Justice Department (DOJ) created Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV) in 2019 to coordinate the government’s approach to dismantling gangs such as MS-13 and served up a number of indictments across the country.

Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter about why the task force had not issued a press release since days before President Joe Biden took office.

Grassley wrote in the August 3 letter:

“…collaborative and comprehensive law enforcement partnerships like Joint Task Force Vulcan are more important than ever before. However, the DOJ’s lack of public updates on JTFV leaves Congress and the American people with questions, including whether Task Force Vulcan still exists.

“This is especially frustrating considering that more and more Americans than ever are searching for a sense of safety and security amidst the recent spike in violent crime.”

MS-13 is a violent gang originating out of Central America and found in places like Los Angeles and New York. Long Island, New York is especially hard hit by the crime and violence brought by the gang.

The gang is known for its extreme violence. The gang’s motto is reportedly, “mata, viola, controla” – which means “kill, rape, control.”

The number of MS-13 gang members being captured crossing the border this year has dropped significantly despite the flood of immigrants crossing into the U.S. under Biden’s lax immigration enforcement policies.

Grassley said that from 2017 to 2020, US Customs and Border Protection found or arrested over 3 million people, averaging about 750,000 people a year. During that same time period, the Border Patrol apprehended an average of 294 MS-13 gang-members a year.

This year, there have been over 12 million immigrants arrested or encountered, but CBP has only apprehended 71 MS-13 members.

Grassley said the increase in encounters and decrease in MS-13 apprehensions clearly indicates that gang members are evading capture and entering the country.

Grassley wrote:

“As you know, one DOJ analysis from 2017 estimated that there are at least 10,000 MS-13 members in the United States. In suburban New York, for example, MS-13 was linked to 38 percent of all murders over the course of 2016 and 2017. MS-13 is a violent street gang that operates both here in the United States, and throughout Mexico and Central America, and JTVF was created to combat and contain MS-13.

“Search of DOJ’s publicly searchable website shows that the last DOJ news release for ‘JTVF’ or ‘Vulcan’ was from January 14, 2021, regarding an indictment in New York charging 14 MS-13 leaders with narcoterrorism related offenses. January 14, 2021, was of course just prior to President Biden’s inauguration.”

The Senator also addressed his concerns during a floor speech on Tuesday, August 3. In the speech, he expressed concern that DOJ was not tackling the MS-13 threat:

“I’m greatly concerned as to whether the Biden Department of Justice is committed to fighting the violent crime committed by the gang known as MS-13.  MS-13 is a violent gang that operates on the streets of the United States, and throughout Mexico and Central America. MS-13’s informal motto is ‘Kill, steal, rape, control.’

“Under the Trump administration, the department established a task force to fight the murders and other serious crimes committed by MS-13 members. But, DOJ hasn’t released any news or updates on this task force, called Task Force Vulcan, since January 14, 2021, right before President Biden’s inauguration. So, we have no idea what DOJ is doing to combat MS-13.”

Grassley commented on an April CBP arrest of an MS-13 gang member who was convicted of a felony with an outstanding warrant and another incident where a female MS-13 gang member was arrested while traveling with a convicted murderer.

Grassley also mentioned the Maryland arrest of an MS-13 gang member who lured a 15-year-old girl into an apartment not far from the Capitol and attempted to rape her:

“So, even if Border Patrol agents in the field or local police are doing their best to stop MS-13, we don’t know what the DOJ is doing about MS-13 since they haven’t released any updates on Task Force Vulcan since January. We don’t even know if Task Force Vulcan still exists.

 “This is a problem because we know MS-13 is still ruthlessly operating on American streets. And Congress and the American people deserve to know what the DOJ is doing to keep our streets safe, and keep us safe from dangerous criminal organizations like MS-13. I will be seeking answers on this question from DOJ.”

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Report: Sanctuary county twice freed an illegal immigrant who is now accused of attempted rape of teen

July 4, 2021

 

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD – An illegal alien MS-13 gang member who stands accused of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl had been freed from custody twice prior by Montgomery County officials under its sanctuary policies.

Erick Benitez-Amaya, 24, of Grantchester Place in Gaithersburg, is currently facing charges of attempted second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, and second-degree assault.

Benitez-Amaya is an illegal alien from El Salvador and a known MS-13 gang member.

On May 8 at about midnight, Montgomery County officers were dispatched to a report of a sexual assault near the Lakeforest mall. When police arrived, the victim and a witness pointed out Benitez-Amaya, who was standing nearby.

Police approached the suspect, and after a brief foot pursuit, he was taken into custody.

Investigators learned that the suspect and three other men approached the girl near her community swimming pool. Following the conversation, the victim went with Benitez-Amaya to a second-story apartment.

Police said that, inside the apartment, the suspect attempted to remove the girl’s clothing and removed his pants. The police wrote in a criminal complaint:

“The defendant began pulling the top of victim 1’s shirt and her jacket, trying to touch her chest. He then removed his (genitals) from his pants and began touching his (genitals) in front of her.”

When Benitez-Amaya was getting a condom, the victim told police she called a friend on Facetime.

Police wrote:

“She was screaming and unable to get away from the defendant… The defendant then grabbed a condom. The victim called a friend utilizing FaceTime and stated that she was being held against her will.”

The friend notified another person about the Facetime call, and that person went to the apartment and heard the victim screaming, “Let me go!”

The girl was eventually able to escape from the apartment.

At arraignment following his arrest, the court ordered Benitez-Amaya remain in custody on a no-bond status.

Benitez-Amaya has been charged with second-degree rape, third-degree sexual offense, and second-degree assault and now faces up to 40 years in prison. He is scheduled for a jury trial in November.

Law enforcement records indicate that Benitez-Amaya was a member of the brutal MS-13 street gang with a criminal record in Maryland.

In January 2018, Montgomery County Police charged Benitez-Amaya, then 20, with consuming alcohol in a public place. A judge fined him $72 and placed him on probation.

In May 2020, Montgomery County Police charged Benitez-Amaya with second-degree assault. Benitez-Amaya spent 60 days in jail before pleading guilty in August 2020 and getting released. A judge placed Benitez-Amaya on probation through August of this year.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that Benitez-Amaya was an illegal alien from El Salvador who was twice prior released by Montgomery County officials despite ICE detainers in place for the prior crimes.

An ICE detainer requests jurisdictions hold prisoners detained in custody until federal officials can take custody of the person.

An ICE spokesperson told Breitbart News:

“Currently, ICE does not have a detainer on this individual. However, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Baltimore Field Office had previously issued detainers on two separate occasions to the Montgomery County Detention Center for this individual. Neither of those detainers were honored.”

In July 2019, Montgomery County’s designation as a community with “sanctuary status” was established by executive order. County Executive Mark Elrich signed an executive order.

The order says no county agency, including all police departments, can ask about your immigration status. In addition, they are forbidden from cooperating with ICE.

Elrich said the order was an effort to keep the community safe.

At the time, Acting Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said:

“We don’t interact with ICE. We don’t contact ICE, nor do we ask any of our residents in Montgomery County about their immigration status in the United States.

“If you’re driving without a driver’s license you’re driving without a driver’s license. It doesn’t matter what your status is. All this means is that the person can’t ask you what your immigration status is or what your nationality is.”

Unfortunately, the stakes are substantially higher.

In July 2020, officials in Montgomery County released an illegal immigrant charged with raping a 7-year-old child despite an ICE detainer request.

Rene Ramos-Hernandez, a Salvadoran national, was charged with one count of sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of second-degree rape following an allegation of “forced unwanted sexual intercourse” with the  7-year-old girl “at least ten times” in the early 2000s.  

 

 

 

 

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