Halfway between Los Angeles and Sacramento lies California's forgotten country, vast swaths of land with populations fluctuating based on weather and how much water the state allows to flow to the region. Almost half of Mendota, Calif.'s population, oscillating around the 11,000 mark, lives under the poverty line. And a decade ago, MS-13 traveled from Los Angeles along Interstate 5 and then up rural State Route 33 to begin a yearslong reign of terror in the tiny town of Mendota.
MS-13, the ethnic Salvadoran street gang that began in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles and became a nation-crushing force back in the mother country, has become the bete noir President Trump loves to hate. In turn, the media's loved to write it off. National newspapers nearly universally lambasted Trump for his focus on MS-13's gang violence at his 2018 State of the Union. The New York Times, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic have all slammed the president for "overstating" and politicizing the relatively minimal threat of MS-13.
Mendota tells a very different story. From 2015 to 2017, at least 25 alleged MS-13 members orchestrated over a dozen murders in this tiny town, nearly all victims belonging to Mendota's mostly Mexican population. Federal and local law enforcement finally caught 25 of the alleged members in August, but as a local news investigation by the Fresno Bee revealed, Mendota is just one small town among many ravaged by MS-13 and terrified of their remnants.
The Bee reports that Fresno-area relatives of victims have left the country for fear of retribution, and that even the city's police chief, Gregg L. Andreotti, concedes that MS-13 affiliates still linger in Mendota.
One anonymous woman, who moved her plants inside her home out of fear of MS-13, likened the city to "a bomb about to explode."
The national news media has maintained radio silence on such stories about MS-13's destruction. The gang became so pervasive and confident in their power over the Fresno area that they allegedly made trips back to Los Angeles to assist MS-13's base in reasserting control over Westlake's MacArthur Park.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is correct to amp up the fight against MS-13 and deem them transnational criminal organizations. Seeing as much of MS-13's membership already relies on people already in the country, perhaps focusing on immigration isn't the only solution. But the problem of MS-13 is without a doubt one of national importance, and to the extent that immigration policy can rid the U.S. of its members, it should be used. MS-13 isn't ravaging Washington, D.C., but it is in smaller cities across the country.
Disagreement with Trump's policy is one thing, but any media denials of the pervasive power and destruction of MS-13 represent pure malpractice.