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Screenshot of Fox News broadcast showing a map of alleged Tren de Aragua movements to the US Pantallazo de noticias de Fox News que muestra la supuesta migración de Tren de Aragua hacía los EE.UU

Is Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua ‘Invading’ the US?

Is Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua ‘Invading’ the US?

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua gang is leading to increasing worry in the United States, even while the group appears to have no sizeable US existence and appears unlikely to establish one.

US federal lawmakers recently requested President Joe Biden to declare Tren de Aragua a transnational felony firm, contacting the team “an invading prison army” and boasting the gang’s associates have distribute “brutality and chaos” in the United States. 

“It is obvious that most state and local legislation enforcement organizations are not nonetheless prepared to handle the magnitude of this grave risk,” the group of approximately two dozen lawmakers, all from the opposition Republican Bash, wrote in a March 14 letter.

SEE ALSO: Tren de Aragua: From Prison Gang to Transnational Felony Enterprise

The ask for follows a smattering of reviews in modern months suggesting the achievable existence of Tren de Aragua customers in the United States, some with backlinks to isolated crimes.

But the several crimes attributed to alleged Tren de Aragua users in the United States show up to have no connection with the bigger group or its management in Venezuela. And none of much more than a dozen countrywide, condition, and community law enforcement agencies contacted by Insight Crime has documented any important presence of Tren de Aragua. 

Flimsy Ties

Two modern murders with tenuous hyperlinks to Tren de Aragua attracted common media awareness and showcased prominently in the Republican lawmakers’ letter, while neither killing had any clear link to gang functions. 

The most new was the February 2024 murder of Laken Riley, a university college student in the southeastern state of Georgia. Federal prosecutors mentioned in a court docket submitting that the alleged killer experienced tattoos, wore clothes, and flashed hand signs that advised an affiliation with Tren de Aragua, however they did not suggest gang ties inspired the murder. But tattoos are not an identification image for Tren de Aragua users, as they are for groups these types of as the MS13 and Barrio 18.

A search of the powerful CourtLink legal databases found no other US criminal circumstances mentioning Tren de Aragua, either at the state or federal level. 

The head of the Ga Bureau of Investigation’s gang job force, Ken Howard, explained to Insight Crime that somewhat very little is known about the gang’s existence and functions in the United States.

“We know they&#8217re here in the state of Ga,” Howard explained. “But as significantly as developing out an intelligence databases on the group that&#8217s perfectly documented and recognized, I wouldn&#8217t say we&#8217re there however.” 

Beforehand, Tren de Aragua was joined to the November 2023 murder of a Venezuelan ex-police officer around Miami. But Detective Alvaro Zabaleta of the Miami-Dade Law enforcement Division informed Perception Criminal offense that the suspect in that situation experienced denied belonging to the gang, and investigators experienced identified no evidence indicating his membership.

“This specific has awareness of members of this business … But that&#8217s all they have,” Zabaleta stated. “We don&#8217t have any crimes that we can say are affiliated to them.” 

The Republican lawmakers’ letter accused Tren de Aragua of “rapes of many small children.” But Perception Crime could not locate any reports of this kind of incidents, and the most important authors of the letter, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. María Elvira Salazar, equally of Florida, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Police companies in important urban locations throughout the United States – which includes Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, and Denver – told Perception Criminal offense that they experienced no stories of crimes committed by Tren de Aragua in their jurisdictions. 

The New York Police Department has told area media stores that Tren de Aragua is liable for a sequence of cell mobile phone robberies in New York Town, but the company did not respond to Perception Crime’s requests for comment. 

Vague Experiences

Info about the presence of Tren de Aragua in the United States is confined and obscure.

In August 2023, US Border Patrol Main Jason Owens claimed on X, formerly Twitter, that his agency experienced arrested a Tren de Aragua member attempting to enter the United States. A handful of months later, in November, the Border Patrol explained to CNN en Español that the agency had arrested 38 possible Tren de Aragua associates involving Oct 2022 and Oct 2023.   

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not too long ago announced what appears to be the first apprehension of an alleged Tren de Aragua member absent from the border. The arrest transpired close to Chicago on March 11, 2024 – days prior to the lawmakers’ letter to Biden – while ICE did not announce it publicly right until March 25. 

It is not obvious how ICE verified the suspect’s membership in the gang. The Border Patrol, ICE, and their parent agency, the Office of Homeland Safety (DHS) did not reply to Insight Crime’s requests for comment. 

A unique agent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation lately advised the New York Article that Tren de Aragua members are moving into the United States and likely teaming up with other gangs like the MS13. 

But a spokesperson for the FBI’s father or mother company, the US Office of Justice, advised Perception Criminal offense the company does not have “any community conditions involving Tren de Aragua to present to you.” The FBI declined Perception Crime’s requests for comment.

Boundaries to Entry

Tren de Aragua has successfully expanded outside of Venezuela to create functions in other South American nations around the world by adhering to and preying off the large migrant flows created in current yrs by Venezuela’s economic and political struggles. But the gang is not likely to be in a position to replicate its product in the United States, regardless of the country’s significant Venezuelan diaspora communities. 

Tren de Aragua lacks manage more than US migrant smuggling and human trafficking routes. Command of this kind of routes was important to the gang’s enlargement in South The us. Tren de Aragua’s smuggling functions assisted make a robust existence in border regions of Colombia and Chile, offering it a base from which to branch out to other crimes with lower boundaries to entry. From there, the gang additional expanded to urban places and prisons in all those countries. 

SEE ALSO: Large-Profile Chile Murder Shows Tren de Aragua’s Sophistication

But human smuggling and trafficking routes along the US-Mexico border are dominated by Mexican groups, leaving little place for Tren de Aragua to create a foothold.

Equally, Tren de Aragua would likely battle to break into other felony marketplaces in the United States, numerous of which are controlled by nicely recognized gangs. The deficiency of criminal competitors was decisive in Tren de Aragua’s ability to increase into Chile, whereas it has experienced much less results in Ecuador’s additional aggressive criminal landscape. 

Though Tren de Aragua appears unlikely to make sizeable inroads in the United States, inflating the threat posed by the gang could inspire imposters. This phenomenon has transpired in international locations in the course of Latin The usa as the gang’s standing has grown. 

Zabaleta, the Miami-Dade detective, mentioned his agency is wary of stoking needless panic about the team. 

“It offers them notoriety, it gives them trustworthiness, it can make them grow,” he mentioned. “You start to develop that panic and that sounds on a little something that perhaps is not even there.”

Highlighted Graphic: Impression from a Fox News broadcast displaying a map of the alleged migration of Tren de Aragua to the United States. Credit: Fox News

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