Washington: The US government has announced the arrests of almost 1,400 gang members between March 26 and May 6 in the largest ever operation undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) investigation unit.
A total of 1,378 people were arrested around the country for assorted crimes, including drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, people trafficking, murder and people trafficking for sexual exploitation, DHS officials said at a Washington press conference on Thursday.
"Gangs threaten the safety of our communities, not just in major metropolitan areas but in our suburbs and rural areas, too," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan.
"Gang-related violence and criminal activity present an ongoing challenge for law enforcement everywhere. Our efforts to dismantle gangs are much more effective in areas where partnership with local law enforcement is strongest," he added.
Of the 1,378 arrests, 933 were US citizens, while 445 were foreigners from 21 countries in South America, Central America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
Those arrested are citizens of Mexico (249), El Salvador(72), Honduras (63), Guatemala (19), the Dominican Republic (10), Cuba (four), three each from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Nicaragua, while the others come from nations as diverse as Brazil, Mauritania, Laos and Jamaica, along with other countries.
The DHS said that of those arrested, 1,095 had declared their allegiance to certain gangs, including 137 members of the Bloods, 118 affiliated with the Surenos, 104 who said they belonged to Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 104 who said they were part of the Crips.
Among those arrested were three people who benefited in the past from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme inaugurated in 2012 by former President Barack Obama for undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children and known as "Dreamers".
The programme halted the deportations of young undocumented foreigners and granted them temporary work permits on the condition that they not commit any crimes.
According to the DHS, the three individuals were excluded from DACA protection for criminal activities.
Since DACA was implemented in 2012, DHS has denied coverage to 1,500 people because of their affiliation with criminal groups.