Immigration authorities arrested 39 members of the international crime gang MS-13 in New York in the past month.
The arrests came as part of a larger anti-gang effort, Operation Matador, run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in tandem with agents from other Homeland Security offices and local law enforcement, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Members of other criminal gangs were arrested in the operation as well.
Most of the arrested members are from El Salvador and Honduras, while five are from Mexico and two are from Guatemala. Twenty of the gang members already had criminal histories, and 12 were brought to the United States as unaccompanied minors, the Times noted.
ICE's New York field office director for enforcement and removal operations, Thomas R. Decker, released a statement on the series of arrests.
"These individuals are members of a violent street gang actively wreaking havoc in the community," Decker said. "This unified effort is about keeping New York citizens safe."
Authorities on Long Island in Suffolk County, where many of the gang members were arrested, attribute 17 murders in the area since Jan. 1, 2016 to MS-13.
MS-13 was started in the 1980s in Los Angeles by refugees from El Salvador. It has since grown to become a transnational organization.
The violent gang, which is involved in homicides, drug dealing, and human trafficking, has members throughout the United States. President Donald Trump has mentioned MS-13 in speeches on violent criminal gangs and illegal immigration. Many of its members have connections to Central America.