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January 23, 2023Denver, CO, United StatesEnforcement and Removal, Transnational Gangs

ERO removes MS-13 gang member wanted for crimes in El Salvador

DENVER — Officers with Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Denver removed Gerber Membreno-Portillo, 22, a noncitizen fugitive wanted in El Salvador, from the United States Jan. 13. Membreno-Portillo has an active arrest warrant in El Salvador for the crime of aggravated terrorist organizations (MS-13) against the public peace and security of the state.

ICE Air Operations removed Membreno-Portillo via charter flight to El Salvador International Airport Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez. Officials transferred him to El Salvador’s national civil police upon arrival.

“MS-13 is a pervasive threat and source of unmitigated violence and criminal activity both here and abroad,” said ERO Denver acting Field Office Director Jesus Rocha. “Membreno-Portillo will have to stand trial for the crimes he is accused of committing in his home country. We applaud and commend the international partnerships that help make arrests and removals like these happen.”

ERO El Salvador and its Security Alliance for Fugitive Enforcement (SAFE) task force assisted with Membreno-Portillo’s arrest and removal. SAFE is a fugitive enforcement and information sharing partnership that operates primarily out of the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras under each host nation’s assistant attaché for removal. ERO created the SAFE program in 2012 with El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities to better use subject information derived from local in-country investigative resources and leads to locate, apprehend, detain and remove individuals subject to foreign arrest warrants who are residing illegally in the United States.

The transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, has local chapters, or cliques, throughout the world, including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the United States. MS-13 members and associates engage in crimes such as murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion and obstruction of justice. MS-13 members enforce gang rules and protect gang territory with violence, including murder.

ERO officers make enforcement decisions on a case-by-case basis in responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement professionals and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland.

Noncitizens placed into removal proceedings receive their legal due process from federal immigration judges in the immigration courts, which are administered by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). EOIR is an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice and is separate from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration judges in these courts make decisions based on the merits of each individual case. ICE officers carry out the removal decisions made by the federal immigration judges.

In fiscal year 2022, ERO arrested 46,396 noncitizens with criminal histories; this group had 198,498 associated charges and convictions. These included 21,531 assault offenses; 8,164 sex and sexual assault offenses; 5,554 weapons offenses; 1,501 homicide-related offenses; and 1,114 kidnapping offenses.

ERO, a directorate of ICE, upholds U.S. immigration law at, within, and beyond our borders. ERO operations target public safety threats, such as convicted criminal noncitizens and gang members, who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who illegally re-enter the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges. ERO deportation officers assigned to Interpol also assist in targeting foreign fugitives for crimes committed abroad at-large in the U.S. ERO manages all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including identification and arrest, detention, bond management, supervised release, transportation, and removal. Additionally, ERO repatriates noncitizens ordered removed from the U.S. to more than 150 countries worldwide.

Members of the public can report crimes or suspicious activity by calling 866-347-2423 or completing ICE’s online tip form.

Learn more about ERO’s mission to increase public safety in your community on Twitter @ERODenver.