Immigration advocates say the U.S. designation of street gang MS-13 as a transnational criminal organization could be "a problem" for Salvadoran immigrants.
Members of the Salvadoran community in Los Angeles say they have worked for years to escape the shadow of the gang formally known as Mara Salvatrucha MS-13, based in El Salvador, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
"It's a problem if to be a Salvadoran immigrant is seen as being synonymous with being a criminal. It would stigmatize a community that has suffered a lot," said Francisco Rivera, president of the National Central American Roundtable.
Governments should spend more money on efforts to get young Salvadorans out of the gang life, said Enrique Hurtado, a Salvadoran American executive director of Aztecs Rising.
The designation Thursday by the Treasury Department freezes MS-13's financial assets and makes it more difficult for the gang to use banks or wire transfers to move money.
The move is designed to stem the flow of the gang's money across the border and within the United States.
MS-13 has between 6,000 and 10,000 members in 40 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, the FBI says.
The federal action may be the greatest help to cities on the East Coast, where MS-13 is growing most rapidly. Many cities have smaller police forces and lack the necessary resources or experience to deal with the gang, said Wes McBride, executive director of the California Gang Investigation Association.
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