January 31, 2018 2:00 pm
Updated: January 31, 2018 2:02 pm

MS-13 gang Google searches spiked 4,650% during Trump’s SOTU speech — here’s why

WATCH: President Trump talks MS-13 gang violence during State of the Union


Google searches for the MS-13 gang spiked by 4,650 per cent during U.S. President Donald Trump‘s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The rise of people looking up the gang occurred around 9:40 p.m. ET, according to Google Trends.

Here’s what Trump said:

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During the address, the president told the story of two teenage girls from New York who were killed by members of the gang.

ANALYSIS: Trump called for unity during the State of the Union. Did he mean it?

“Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders,” he said. “Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors – and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.”

Trump referenced MS-13 in his speech by name four times as a way to justify his immigration reform policy, particularly his rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

WATCH: Trump talks immigration “loopholes” during his State of the Union address

“Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country,” he said later on. “We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again.”

DACA, also known as the Dreamers program, allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country after being vetted. It was revoked by Trump in September, and has not yet been replaced.

FULL TEXT: Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address

Fact-checking Trump’s MS-13 remarks:

“We have sent thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons,” Trump added during the speech.

But a fact check by The Associated Press deems that’s not accurate.

That’s an exaggeration and goes beyond even how Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration’s most aggressive anti-gang enforcer, characterizes the scope of the effort.

WATCH: More coverage of Trump’s State of the Union address

Sessions said in a speech this week that federal authorities had secured the convictions of nearly 500 human traffickers and 1,200 gang members, “and worked with our international allies to arrest or charge more than 4,000 MS-13 members.” On other occasions, the attorney general has specifically said the 4,000 number reflects work done with “our partners in Central America.”

That suggests that at least some of the MS-13 members Trump is referring to weren’t actually in the U.S. when they were arrested, and aren’t now in U.S. prisons.

What is the MS-13 gang?

The MS-13 gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, originated in the 1980s in Los Angeles. It largely consisted of refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, where there were civil wars.

The group, which has since grown to other states, has been involved in several violet crimes over the years, including kidnappings and human smuggling.

WATCH: Trump receives boos over immigrants bringing families into U.S. comment

The Department of Justice estimates that there are approximately 10,000 members of the gang across 40 states. In 2012, the gang was labelled a “transnational criminal organization.”

Many of the current members are thought to be immigrants from Central America.

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s State of the Union address warns of immigration dangers

While members of the Trump administration have claimed that the DACA program protected such criminals, numbers reported by the The Washington Post tell a different story.

About 2,139 DACA recipients out of 800,000 — less than one per cent — have lost their permits because of public safety concerns. The newspaper added that so-called Dreamers are less likely to end up in prison, and can be deported without a conviction if arrested.

Reaction to Trump’s MS-13 references

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris slammed Trump for linking MS-13 violence directly to the DACA program in an interview with MSNBC Tuesday night.

“MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior. To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible, and it was scapegoating and it was fear-mongering and it was wrong,” she said.

READ MORE: Reject chaos and partisanship, Joe Kennedy III says in Democratic rebuttal to Trump speech

She said Trump’s speech wasn’t truthful.

“It was wrong technically in terms of the nature and character populations, and in terms of the difference — in terms of who they are and how they live their lives,” she said. “And it was wrong because that’s not what leaders are supposed to do. We’re not supposed to convince them of policy because we make them afraid.”

WATCH: Trump administration faces raft of lawsuits over decision to scrap DACA

Trump’s previous comments on MS-13

In April 2017, the president spoke at a National Rifle Association event, calling the MS-13 gang a “bad group.” 

“For too long, Washington has gone after law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for criminals, drug dealers, traffickers, and gang members,” he said at the Atlanta event.

WATCH: Donald Trump’s full State of the Union address

“MS-13, you know about MS-13? It’s not pleasant for them anymore folks, it’s not pleasant for them anymore. That’s a bad group. Not pleasant for MS-13. Get ’em the hell out of here, right? Get em out.”

Trump has also referenced MS-13 in relation to immigration before. In a tweet on April 23, 2017, he said a U.S.-Mexico border wall would keep the gang members out of the country.

“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” he wrote.

— With files from The Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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