In his State of the Union speech, President Trump blamed children crossing the border for gang violence perpetrated by MS-13 in suburban schools, telling the story of two girls killed by an MS-13 member in Long Island in 2016. MS-13 is a street gang that has blossomed in towns like Hempstead, Long Island and Langley Park, Maryland. For Trump, the gang is a favorite adversary. He's called on law enforcement to be "rough" with its members, most of them teenagers who have fled violence in Central America.

His frequent focus on this one street gang belies the numbers. Violent crime, including homicides, is at all-time lows in Long Island. That doesn’t mean MS-13 isn’t a problem. Officials say the gang is behind several of the 37 murders there last year ...

The problem with trying putting up walls to keep gang members out of the country is that many kids aren’t members before they arrive. It’s the experiences they have in U.S. schools and neighborhoods that drive them to gangs. And MS-13 and other immigrant street gangs also include U.S. citizens. One of the young gang members I spent years getting to know was an American citizen. She felt so alienated by anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that she never really felt like she belonged here. The gang always made her feel welcome.

Hard-line criminal justice and immigration policies have only added fuel to the cycle of violence. To protect America’s children, police and educators are begging for help to stop the gangs from forming in the first place.

Read the full article about what Trump doesn't get about the MS-13 gang by Sarah Garland at The Hechinger Report.