Trump Is Locking Up and Threatening to Deport Children Based on Mere Suspicion of Gang Affiliation

Last week, flanked by police officers in Long Island, President Trump told a crowd of supporters his administration was getting rid of immigrant “animals” who were causing gang violence in their communities. “They’re going to jails,” Trump yelled, “and then they’re going back to their country. Or they’re going back to their country, period.”

But a closer look at who the Trump administration is actually targeting shows that these so-called “animals” are sometimes children who have not even been accused of any crime. Police from Suffolk County are collaborating with the Trump administration to target immigrant children for arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement when the police are “not in a position to make a criminal arrest.” This means that kids who the police department knows it does not have the evidence to criminally prosecute are nonetheless being summarily snatched up by ICE, torn from their communities, and shipped to jail-like facilities, hundreds or thousands of miles from their family and immigration lawyers.

Children from Suffolk County report being falsely labeled a gang member for wearing clothing with a Chicago Bulls logo, for playing soccer with suspected gang members, and for displaying the flag of their home country, El Salvador. This labeling appears to be the first step in a process that results in minors being snatched and whisked away to detention.

In many ways, this is history repeating itself. Back in the 1980s, the federal government held immigrant children with no criminal background in hot, crammed jail cells in remote facilities across the country. These egregious conditions prompted a federal lawsuit, Flores v. Reno, which resulted in a 1997 consent decree that remains in effect to this day.

Despite the lessons of history, the Trump administration is once again arbitrarily jailing children.

The Flores decree established several procedural protections for children to prevent their arbitrary detention, giving them, for example, the right to know why they were being placed in highly restrictive facilities and the right to challenge that placement with the help of counsel. Congress later followed suit and passed a 2008 law requiring that immigrant children be placed in the “least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child,” and that no child be placed in highly restrictive jail-like conditions unless the minor “poses a danger to self or others or has been charged with having committed a criminal offense.”

But at least nine children from Suffolk County are being held in highly restrictive detention based solely on unconfirmed suspicions that they are affiliated with gangs. Despite the lessons of history, the Trump administration is once again arbitrarily jailing children.

In a letter last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union warned the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which has custody of immigrant children, that placing minors in highly restrictive detention without adequate cause or process violates the agency’s obligations under the Flores consent decree and federal law.

One kid’s case stands out. Hector (a pseudonym) came to the U.S. alone when he was 14. Ironically enough, he fled his home country because a gang repeatedly threatened to kill him. After he entered the U.S., ORR screened him, found he was not a safety risk, and released him to his relative in Long Island. Now 16, Hector is in school and has a girlfriend.

In April, Hector and his girlfriend were leaving high school when two Suffolk County detectives stopped them. The detectives asked Hector and his girlfriend for their ID, then jotted down their names. One detective asked Hector if he was in a gang. When Hector said no, the detective lifted his shirt to look for gang tattoos. But Hector had none. The detective then made a gang sign to see if Hector recognized it. Apparently unsatisfied, the detectives told Hector and his girlfriend to move along, and no one from Suffolk police has bothered Hector since.

They didn’t have to.

In July, ICE officials showed up at Hector’s job. They arrested him and gave him to ORR, which placed him in a facility over a thousand miles away from his home. Hector and his immigration lawyer never had the chance to contest his placement before he was shipped off. In fact, after over a week, his lawyer and his family still don’t know the facility he is being held in despite the lawyer’s repeated attempts to find out.

Recently, a social worker from ORR called Hector’s relative to say Hector is being held somewhere in Texas and that ORR officials do not think he is gang affiliated. But ORR is still holding him because the Suffolk detectives who stopped him three months ago suspect he is.

Hector is one of several examples of the “animals” that Trump and his administration are targeting for jail and deportation based on nothing more than unconfirmed suspicions.

We won’t let him get away with it.

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Anonymous

WHY was Hector here at 14 & NOT WITH HIS FAMILY? He needs to be BACK WITH THEM.

Anonymous

Good point. If the situation where reversed--his family was here and he was in Central America, the ACLU would be screaming about letting him in based on family reunification.

Anonymous

There are several potential explanations. Perhaps Hector's family couldn't afford to send their entire family up to NY. Perhaps Hector's family was the reason that the gang was targeting him and by getting away from them he escaped their threat. Perhaps he's an orphan. We can continue to speculate, but this kid does not deserve to be detained or sent back to the hellhole that is El Salvador without any proof of his guilt.

cLAsic

The bottom line is there are law. They are there for a reason and no one is above them. You come here illegally you are breaking the law. You are starting off with this country on a bad foot, and your saying to the people in line, Fuck you i dont have to wait im better than you. My family waited the time and then my dad brought us here legally. The US has the right to know who is entering the country, for the protection of citizen. When you break the law it has the right to hold the person guilty accountable. Thats the bottom line. You tell these sad stories or children being torn from their parents but i never here ," How could the parents be so irresponsible and risk their childs safety and health to come here illegally. I know its horrible, but the united states didn't get the illegals into the country illegally so dont blame the country when you get caught for a crime,

Jean

FYI, staying in the U.S. illegally (for instance by overstaying a tourist visa) is not a crime, it's a civil violation. Immigration in this country is broken: the backlogs are too great, the waits are too long (wait times for even family visas range from 19 months to 33 years), the numbers of green cards too few, and meanwhile many industries in the US depend on a strong flow of immigrants to take jobs that are not wanted by citizens. Since at least WWI, there has been a flow of workers passing in and out of the US through Mexico before the barriers to border crossing were strengthened, at times encouraged and even requested by the U.S. government. Migrants from south of the border were seen less of problem than Asian immigrants, since they could be expected to return to their home countries if employment became scarce in the U.S. However, there have been more permanent settlements here since 1985, when the risks and costs of crossing the border became higher. Like it or not, the US is closely linked with its southern neighbors and the laws should be reformed to reflect the reality. For instance, increasing the number of worker visas available for restaurant, farm, and household workers, and increasing funding for visa processing, would encourage legal crossings which we could control.

Anonymous

Don't listen to the lies above, illegally entering the U.S. is a crime. Jean is either informed or outright lying to you.

Criminal Penalties:

For the first improper entry offense, the person can be fined (as a criminal penalty), or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. For a subsequent offense, the person can be fined or imprisoned for up to two years, or both. (See 8 U.S.C. Section 1325, I.N.A. Section 275.)

Say what you will of the system being broken but illegal entry into the u.s. is a crime. This wpuld also include attempting to gain entry to the U.S. by fraud, which would include giving false information on your tourist visa about tge intended length of your stay. Make no mistake under the current laws illegal entry into thr U.S. is a criminal offense.

Susan

Companies based in Suffolk County NY

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Companies_based_in_Suffolk_County,_New_York

Anonymous

The ACLU is very loud, but does nothing for what it clame it stands for!

Jean

I am not a liar nor am I misinformed. There is a difference between ENTERING this country illegally versus BEING in the country illegally. http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2014/07/is-illegal-immigration-a-crime-improper-entry-v-unlawful-presence.html
Since 2007, more people have come legally but overstayed their visas than have crossed a border illegally into the USA.

While nobody should approve of breaking the law whatever the penalty, we should consider whether the law and how it's carried out are good as they are, or whether they need fixing. In order to follow the law, even people eligible for green cards are waiting over a decade to be reunited with their families. It's wrong and unbearable for those who can't afford to fly back and forth for visits. Also because of the risks of recrossing the border, people who come here to work, end up staying permanently, instead of moving back and forth with the jobs as would be natural.

A guest worker plan, like an improved version of the one proposed by G.W. Bush in 2004, might be a step forward. Or maybe putting more resources into processing green card applications, so the wait is not so long. There are many possible solutions, each with flaws. But the current plan is poisonous and hurtful out of proportion, and wasteful besides. When deported, people lose their jobs and businesses, throwing them and their families into poverty. Often they did work that American citizens didn't want to do, creating economic problems. The people are detained for months or even years before deportation, which is cruel.

Jean

^creating economic problems when they are removed, I meant to say

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