Thirty-nine members of MS-13, a brutal gang with roots in Central America, were arrested by the immigration authorities in New York in the past month, officials said on Wednesday.
Many of those arrested were on Long Island in Suffolk County, where the authorities have attributed 17 murders to MS-13 since Jan. 1, 2016. In the most recent, four young men were found dead in Central Islip in April.
The arrests came as part of an effort to eradicate gangs that operate across international borders. Called Operation Matador, it includes agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and affiliated Homeland Security investigators, as well as local law enforcement. In addition to the 39 members of MS-13, six members of other violent gangs, such as the Latin Kings and the Surenos, were arrested, officials said. According to the immigration agency, people are considered confirmed gang members if they admit membership or have tattoos of gang symbols, among other factors.
Most of those arrested come from El Salvador and Honduras. Five others are from Mexico, and two are from Guatemala, according to the immigration authorities. Twenty had criminal histories, ranging from misdemeanors like disorderly conduct to felony assault and weapons charges.
Twelve had originally crossed into America as unaccompanied minors, according to the release. Three others entered the country via a federal initiative called the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, which is designed to help abused or neglected children find safe haven in the United States.
The arrested men face a variety of consequences. Some had re-entered the country after having been deported once, which is a federal crime, and will face prosecution. Deportation proceedings will begin for some of those not facing criminal charges.