Lies about gangs and the school-to-deportation pipeline

“They’re not people, these are animals,” Trump says. He says they are pouring into the country, committing vicious, brutal crimes, terrorizing Long Island.

He lies.

The New York Daily News reported that even his own administration members don’t back his claims:

“Carla Provost, the acting chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, noted during Senate testimony last summer how seldom gang members are caught among the unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Mexico.

“Of the 250,000 children apprehended between 2011 and summer 2017, 159 had or were suspected of having gang affiliations.

“Of those, only 56 were suspected of affiliation or confirmed to be members of MS-13, Provost said.”

While Long Island police continue to pursue the MS-13 gang, Long Island crime rates, including murder and other violent crimes, fell to historic lows in 2017.

Gangs continue to be a high priority for rhetoric and an excuse to arrest and deport Central American teens. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses gang databases, despite their notorious unreliability. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported on multitudes of errors in the CalGang database:

“In one of the most telling examples, auditors found the names of 42 people whose birth dates indicated they were one year of age or younger at the time they were entered into the database. Of those, 28 were entered for “admitting to being gang members,” according to State Auditor Elaine M. Howle.”

The consequences for immigrant teens, even if they are legal residents of the United States, can be disastrous. Undocumented immigrants may be denied asylum or any other path to legal status. DACA recipients may see their status revoked. Even legal residents may face serious consequences, and even deportation.

Rewire recently published two articles with details of what it calls the school-to-deportation pipeline. The first includes David’s story:

 “The teens caught in this cycle are mostly Central American boys, many of whom fled their native countries to the United States to escape the gang membership they are now accused of. The evidence used to allege their gang ties would be laughable if it didn’t have such dire consequences. In the case of David, a Central American teen highlighted in an Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) survey, a school safety officer accused the high school student of being in a gang because he stood next to another student at school believed to be in a gang and because one student reported they heard from another student that David was involved with a gang. With this information, an immigration judge eventually found that David was gang-involved, denied his lawful permanent resident application as well as an application for asylum, and ordered him deported to a country where he feared for his life. During the entirety of this ordeal, David was detained in ORR custody for a year and a half.”

The second story in the series tells LVM’s long odyssey, which begins with flipping a bird to a classmate:

“One year after a 17-year-old asylum seeker fled El Salvador to escape gang violence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested the teen at his home on Long Island as part of a raid purportedly targeting MS-13 gang members. Known as LVM in court documents, the teen had no criminal record, no known gang affiliations or involvement, no history of disciplinary issues, and had never been arrested, or charged for a crime. He had, however, been suspended from school for flipping off a classmate, who he said reciprocated the gesture.

“A faculty member who witnessed the motion—LVM raising both middle fingers to a fellow student—claimed that the teen had flashed a gang sign, prompting his suspension. And because the school district cooperates with law enforcement, which shares information with immigration officials, ICE arrested him in July 2017 at his home as part of Operation Matador four months after his suspension.”

Dehumanizing immigrants by calling them animals, slandering refugees by calling them members of the very gangs they flee, trumping up false charges and imprisoning already-traumatized teens: this is not what our country should be about.

If you also think this is wrong, that this is not who we should be as a country, call your Congress member and Senators and tell them.

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