New York state plans to spend spend $18.5 million to fund programs aimed at keeping young people on Long Island from joining MS-13, a gang linked to brutal murders and violence across the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced the funding this week in a bid to prevent youths from joining the gang, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Let’s stop the young people from getting caught in the gang pipeline to begin with, rather than just treating them as criminals once the gang takes over,” the governor said at a news conference. “Let’s not treat the disease, let’s prevent the disease.”
MS-13 is among the largest street gangs in the U.S., with many members arriving from Central America. The gang’s motto is “kill, rape, control,” according to the newspaper.
State officials claim that $16 million will go to after-school, job-training and social-service programs for young people. About $2.5 million will be allocated to support violence-reduction efforts.
Cuomo said law-enforcement measures are important in tackling the gang, but stressed that more needs to be done to prevent young people from becoming “easy prey” for MS-13 recruiters.
The announcement marks a shifting tide among Democrats, who previously accused Republicans and President Donald Trump of exaggerating the threat that the gang poses. Trump previously pledged to arrest and deport gang members who turned the streets into “blood-stained killing fields.”
Just last month, six alleged members of MS-13 were indicted in Maryland on charges of murder, conspiracy and racketeering.
In his State of the Union address in January, Trump acknowledged the parents of a teenager killed by the gang in Brentwood, N.Y. -- one of New York City's Long Island suburbs. Nisa Mickens, 15, was brutally murdered in 2016 along with her friend, Kayla Cuevas, 16.
The parents at the time criticized House and Senate Democrats for declining to stand and applaud when Trump honored them.
"It's not right. Regardless of how they feel about the president, they should show the respect. I would show them respect if it was their loved one," Robert Mickens, the father, told Fox News.
MSNBC star Joy Reid mocked Trump at the time for bringing up MS-13. She suggested the president inflated the threat.
“He gives a speech tonight, in which he makes it sound like the biggest issue in the United States, the biggest threat, is MS-13, a gang nobody that doesn't watch Fox News has ever heard of. So he makes it sound like they're the biggest threat,” she said during the network’s coverage of the SOTU address.
But on the very same evening on MSNBC, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., offered a very different view of MS-13 than Reid did.
“MS-13 is an example," Harris said, "of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior.”