Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder were among several Long Island officials who attended a roundtable on gangs and immigration last week hosted by President Donald Trump.
“It’s a menace,” Trump said of the MS-13 gang, according to a transcript on the White House website. “A ruthless gang that has violated our borders and transformed once peaceful neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re horrible people, by the way.”
Trump mistakenly said that the gang “killed a cop for the sake of making a statement.” Gang members did reportedly threaten to kill a police officer in Hempstead last month but have not followed through on that threat.
Also in attendance were Suffolk Police Commissioner Geri Hart and Congressmen Peter King (R-Seaford), Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island). Trump also invited a pair of parents whose daughters were killed by the gang.
During his opening remarks, Trump doubled down on his earlier statement that MS-13 gang members were “animals.”
“I called them ‘animals’ the other day, and I was met with rebuke,” he said. “They said, ‘They are people.’ They’re not people. These are animals, and we have to be very, very tough.”
He said that immigration laws were too weak and allowed gang members — who primarily came from El Salvador — to remain in the country.
Curran did not speak much during the roundtable. She acknowledged the president when he asked where she was in the audience but otherwise did not speak with the president.
Curran spokesman Michael Martino said in a statement that Curran attended the roundtable so she could have access to federal resources to fight MS-13 in the county. It was a reiteration of what Curran said last week when she announced she would attend the meeting.
In that statement, Curran emphasized the word “youth” in describing the gang members, adding that “we need to help our community groups and family members reclaim their children who have been lured by or forced to embrace gang activity.”
Ryder, on the other hand, spoke extensively about what the Nassau County Police Department has done to combat MS-13. He started by thanking Trump for his support.
“On behalf of all our Nassau County police officers — and I think I can speak for every officer in this room and in this country — we know we have a president that has our back and supports us every single day when we go out and do the mission that we are tasked to do,” Ryder said.
He said that his department had identified 500 MS-13 members in Nassau, about half of whom were active. He said the department had a great relationship with Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement but said that intelligence sharing between agencies could be improved.
“We need to get a little bit better on our intelligence sharing and information, and that starts at the border where that information can flow up into the states that we know who, why, when, how,” he said.
Ryder also stressed that youth programs to deter the youth from joining gangs and a strong relationship between the police and Hispanic community were crucial.
This was Trump’s second trip to Long Island as president. During his visit to Brentwood last year, he sparked controversy by saying that Suffolk police officers shouldn’t be concerned about prisoners hitting their heads when being placed in the back of patrol cars.