Last Sunday, a stunning murder on a subway platform occurred in Elmhurst, Queens. The shooting, captured on video, was committed by members of the MS-13 gang, against members of the 18th Street gang. Both gangs, though created decades ago in Los Angeles, have deep roots in Central America. Police announced this week that the shooter, who is in custody, is in the United States illegally, and had prior arrests.
One would assume that lawmakers in the neighborhood would want to crack down on these violent gangs, but its most famous legislator, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, seems far more interested in destroying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one of the agencies charged with deporting dangerous criminals such as Sunday’s shooter.
While some have tried to downplay the dangers posed by these gangs, the brazen shooting shows exactly how dangerous they really are. The issue here isn’t Trump’s alleged fearmongering over MS-13, but rather gunshots ringing around a subway platform. Millions of New Yorkers take the subways including children, the only right way to view this incident, and the underlying gang issues, is as incredibly dangerous.
More broadly, the idea that these gangs only target each other is the same baseless excuse people used to defend the Italian mafia. It was a lie then, and it’s a lie now. According to reporting in The New York Times, both MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang engage in widespread illegal activity, including murder, drug dealing, prostitution, gun running, extortion, and in the case of the latter, dealing in forged documents. Those forged documents, of course, are essential to helping illegal immigrants, including violent criminals, stay in the United States. It truly is a vicious cycle.
Importantly, many, if not most of the victims of these gangs are themselves immigrants, often people who are too afraid to go to authorities, in part because of over-the-top rhetoric regarding those authorities, offered by progressives like Ocasio-Cortez.
Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli, writing in the New York Daily News, points out that, “The NYPD’s own data shows that while crime is on the decline citywide, the 110th Precinct, comprising Corona and Elmhurst, still holds some of the most significant pockets of criminal activity in New York.” Borelli listed several successful interventions by ICE and told the Federalist, “It’s abundantly clear that a ‘cooperate with ICE’ movement has already noted significant positive results for New York City. Trying to abolish an agency that has already proved its worth is beyond absurd, even for AOC.”
Amid all of this, Ocasio-Cortez should have the good sense to realize that her deeply unserious calls to abolish ICE are doing far more harm than good in battling her district’s problems. If ICE really is involved in widespread human rights abuses, the proper course is congressional oversight, not abolition.
Furthermore, Ocasio-Cortez has been completely unclear about what she would replace ICE with or whether a new organization should be in place when ICE is abolished. This is madness. Federal authorities have not only the right, but also, the responsibility to control our borders and to investigate multi-state criminal syndicates.
Few (if any) law enforcement agencies are entirely free of corruption and abuse. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater by taking away a crucial tool in fighting these gangs away can’t be the answer. If ICE is broken, fix it, don’t destroy it and give international criminal organizations an advantage in terrorizing Queens.
Given her radical position on ICE, Ocasio-Cortez should make clear what she believes should have happened to the Elmhurst shooter who was released on bail for felony charges in December. This was his fourth arrest. Does Ocasio-Cortez believe that shooter should have been in the United States? Or should he have been deported? If we abolish ICE who will make such decisions? Anyone? Do we have a right to deport criminals here illegally, at all?
These are serious questions and abolishing ICE isn’t an answer to any of them. People are being murdered in her district, and the congresswoman’s solution appears to less law enforcement. How does that work? As an important political and thought leader of the modern progressive movement, she has an opportunity to help moderate some of its more extreme positions. Expressing support for ICE when they do make the right call, or creating a clear plan for how ICE should be reformed or replaced, would be a great place to start that work.
Part of her brand is big ideas, often accompanied by few specifics, but in this case she must narrow her focus down to her own backyard. ICE plays a vital role in protecting her constituents. By embracing that message, even while seeking to fix whatever problems she believes exist, she can better serve not just New Yorkers, but all Americans.