Why a former Latin Kings gang member joined a Maryland county HHS department

After serving as a member of the Latin Kings gang during his youth, Luis Cardona, 50, is taking on a new role as a government bureaucrat in the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland, according to WLRN Public Radio and Television.

In his role at the Montgomery County HHS department, Mr. Cardona told WLRN he spends the majority of his time advising lawmakers and school districts about how to improve health services for high-risk youth and deter them from pursuing a life caught up in violence and gang behavior.

He said he also spends a lot of time counseling youth with backgrounds similar to his own. Mr. Cardona said the type of counseling necessary for these young individuals has never been easy, but it's become increasingly difficult given recent anti-immigration rhetoric from political officials in Washington, D.C., the report states.

"Most of these young people bring so much light, so much sacredness, but they have darkness in their lives," Mr. Cardona told WLRN. "Our role, from the programs that I fund to the programs that I oversee and manage, is to help bring out that light."

While he claims he maintains a good working relationship with the police, Mr. Cardona said he fears the escalating "tough-on-crime" rhetoric further deters crime victims and witnesses from seeking help or coming forward with information. More extreme solutions to minimize gang violence, like deportation, for example, do not have the intended effect, he said. Most individuals who witness violence in the U.S. often experienced similar situations in their home countries; returning them to their homeland may not deter them from engaging in or bearing witness to those activities, Mr. Cardona told WLRN.

To read the full report, click here.

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