President Donald Trump is infamous in the eyes of many Americans nationwide for his controversial words regarding undocumented immigrants. On May 16, Trump spoke against the primarily Salvadorian undocumented immigrant-based gang MS-13 (or Mara Salvatrucha) and the press spoke back.
Street gang MS-13, the first to be declared an “international criminal group,” is infamous for murder by machete, videos of mutilated bodies and other acts of violence with the goal of establishing fear.
When this gang was first gathered in Los Angeles, before spreading around the country, there were 10,000 members to its name. They are known for hacking civilians to death and fatal beatings with bats, oftentimes in broad daylight, allowing view of witnesses.
A girlfriend of one of the victims was walking home one evening with Nisa, a basketball teammate one day before her 16th birthday when MS-13 members spotted them and attacked with a machete and baseball bats, according to CNN and the Washington Post.
The Houston Chronicle reported that in 2013, “two members beat and hacked a 16-year-old Houston teen to death using bats and machetes, almost decapitating him.”
In 2017, about 10 members stabbed a man more than 100 times in Maryland. They decapitated him and literally, tore out his heart.
The same year, MS-13 members shot an unidentified girl, of about 15-years-old in the head and chest. They also left her body in the middle of a busy street in the Chinatown of Houston. The murderer explained that he killed her to appease Satan.
“The beast did not want a material offering, but wanted a soul,” he said.
The list goes on… More violent acts have been committed such as: murdering sprees, the kidnapping and torturing of teenagers, luring girls to stab to death in front of their boyfriends, torturing 15-year-old girls, cutting off their tattoos and more.
Documentation of the gang’s reputation includes violence on the very thick lines of murder, torture, rape, dismemberment, mutilation. These crimes are committed for the reason of shocking and terrorizing.
Last Wednesday, President Trump spoke and once again, his words set off a media-firestorm.
“These aren’t people. These are animals,” Trump said.
By using of a clip of his announcement, this controversy blew up in popularity and trending tweets, accusing Trump of calling illegal immigrants “animals,” rather than the gang specifically, which would have been in context. One popularly retweeted response considered Trump’s remark “the language of ethnic cleansing.”
“However repugnant their actions, MS-13 are human beings,” tweeted John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) from CNBC in defense.
Not to mention, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s question, “Does he [Trump] not believe in the spark of divinity, the dignity and worth of every person? Calling people animals is not a good thing.”
Many right-wing advocates and some journalists quickly spoke against these accusations. Nevertheless, many Americans (including notably House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi), continued to support the humanity of the gang.
Trump’s choice of words — “animals” remains questioned, however many agree that it is indeed inhumane to commit the crimes of M-13. The American Heritage Dictionary third definition of “animal” is “a person who behaves in a bestial or brutish manner.” As for MS-13, whether or not their behavior is somewhat bestial or in a “brutish manner” remains more questionable.
Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the subject the president, whether it is not responsible or reasonable to consider a brutal street gang “animalistic” is up to interpretation.