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Abbott: Anti-gang effort separate from immigration issue

A new effort to reduce gang violence in Houston won't be affected by reports of rising fear among Latinos of being detained by immigration authorities, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday. (Image/video courtesy: KTRK / NewSource)

A new effort to reduce gang violence in Houston won't be affected by reports of rising fear among Latinos of being detained by immigration authorities, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.

Abbott announced that he would direct $500,000 in grant money and additional resources from the Texas Rangers and state law enforcement to fight gang violence in Houston. He singled out MS-13, a gang linked to drug trafficking and violence in the U.S. and Latin America that's believed to have been founded by immigrants fleeing civil war in El Salvador.

Houston police said last week that the percentages of Hispanics reporting rape and violent crimes have sharply fallen this year.

But Abbott said authorities won't be "relying upon a tip of some person out there who may be here illegally," though he added that state agents won't target potential witnesses over their immigration status.

"This doesn't really have anything to do with regard to whether or not any one person is here legally or illegally," the Republican governor said, adding that the state hoped to offer new "resources and information" to disrupt gang activity.

Abbott is a strong supporter of tougher immigration laws. He's previously targeted Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez over their denial of "detainer" requests issued by federal immigration authorities seeking to have local jails hold those who don't have legal permission to be in the U.S.

Abbott said Harris County, where Houston is located, has more convicted gang members than any other county in Texas.

Houston has thousands of immigrants who are in the city illegally. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has said he's concerned crime victims might avoid calling the police due to their immigration status.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police said last month in a statement on federal immigration policy that "state and local law enforcement agencies depend on the cooperation of immigrants, legal or not, in solving a wide array of crimes."

(Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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