May 1, 2014

The Department of Homeland Security arrested 638 suspected gang members, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced on Thursday. The arrests of alleged street gang members with international ties took place in over 179 cities in March and April and was dubbed “Project Southbound.”

More than 400 of those arrested had violent criminal backgrounds, including seven who had been previously charged with murder. Seventy-eight were charged with federal crimes.

Three-quarters of those arrested were associated with a gang called the Surenos or Sur 13, which originated in Southern California and is associated with the Mexican Mafia gang. The Justice Department wrote in its National Gang Threat Assessment in 2011 that Sur 13 is expanding faster than any other gang in the country. Members have in the past been arrested for murder, extortion and drug trafficking.

Police also picked up several members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (or MS-13) — which have a reputation for hacking victims with machetes, according to the Associated Press — during the crackdown.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at

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