USCIS Chief Ken Cuccinelli Blames 'Illegal Immigration' After Reports Of MS-13 Targeting High School Student

The acting chief of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is blaming "illegal immigration" after it was reported that members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang may have been targeting at least one high school student in Maryland.

"Anyone think illegal immigration has anything to do with this???" USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli questioned, sharing a tweet from a local reporter on Tuesday.

ABC7 journalist Kevin Lewis reported that the Montgomery County Police Department had formed a special detail at Albert Einstein High School in North Kensington, Maryland, on Tuesday after identifying a "credible threat" that MS-13 was seeking revenge against at least one student there.

Speaking to Newsweek, Montgomery County Police Sergeant Sunyoung Kim confirmed that officers were stationed outside the school on Tuesday. However, Kim said she could not confirm whether officers were deployed in response to a threat from MS-13.

Kim said the detail had been sent to the school following an incident last week involving at least one student.

"There were some words that floated around about, possibly, a confrontation," Kim said, adding: "Extra officers were there... out of an abundance of caution."

There is no evidence to suggest that undocumented immigrants were behind the reported threats at the school, as Cuccinelli appeared to infer in his tweet.

While MS-13 has, for years, been the gang with the highest numbers of members apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, it originated in Los Angeles, California, forming in the 1980s and taking root predominantly in the local Salvadoran community.

Since then, however, its members have been behind brutal killings in the U.S. and across the Americas.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency's statistics, as many as 464 MS-13 gang members were stopped at the U.S. border in fiscal year 2019, with 413 members being apprehended in the prior fiscal year.

Compared to the 18th Street gang, the group with the second highest number of members typically stopped at the U.S. border in the past five years, MS-13's numbers are significantly higher.

In fiscal year 2019, 168 people affiliated with the 18th Street gang were stopped at the U.S. border, with 145 people apprehended in fiscal year 2018.

Still, the numbers for MS-13 and 18 Street members are relatively low when compared to the overall 1,148,024 people that were either apprehended or deemed inadmissible by immigration officials at the border in fiscal year 2019.

Ken Cuccinelli
Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing August 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Cuccinelli appeared to blame 'illegal immigrants' after reports that MS-13 members were suspected of targeting a high school student in Maryland. Win McNamee/Getty