Close to three quarters of a million immigrant youth have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Deferred Action simply means that the Deportation that could be imminent will be deferred to a later time, and every two years these dreamers will have to re-apply and renew DACA. Accusations of “gang membership” are used to deport these youth. Under president elect Trump, it is uncertain if DACA will continue to be provided, and how guide the persecution against immigrants will be.
Our client had renewed his DACA already, had been paying taxes for almost three years, attended church, and helped his young nephews with school. Then, suddenly, one cold day in January 2016, he was victim of an ICE raid; officers broke into his home and detained him – no explanations given.
Unbeknownst to our client, he had been observed online by the NJ Gang-Task-Force, an inter-agency law enforcement group comprised of Immigration, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Local Police. One of the agents was tasked into local youths’ activities and postings. Our client’s activity led to the misconception that he was a gang member.
Since 1992 ICE has collaborated closely with the task force. Since 2005, Immigration has used the label of “gang member” to place in removal undocumented youth from the Latino and Asian American communities. Many of these deportees did not have a criminal background, or a history of violence.
Urban youth groups, sometimes intermingled with gang culture, thinking its “cool” to act as though they are associated with a gang, although for the most part they are really just seeking social acceptance. Unfortunately ICE does not see it the same way. ICE began targeting MS-13, and 18th Street gang, but later extended the scope of their targets to include the Latin Kings, Vatos Locos, Mexican Mafia, Bloods, Crips, Spanish Gangster Disciples, La Raza, Border Brothers, Brown Pride, Norteños, Florencia 13, Tiny Rascal, Asian Boyz, and Jamaican Posse.
There are no clear laws or ICE procedures that clarify who is a true gang member, an associate, or a mere fan of urban culture. However, if anyone posts on social media anything slightly related to street and gang culture, they can be subject to an ICE raid and, subsequently, persecution. Be careful with what you post!
Immigration Judge Tadal in the Elizabeth Immigration court provided a complete review of our client’s history and accepted our request for bond. She provided a very fair review and an opinion finding that our client lacked any criminal or violent history, and that there was sufficient evidence to show he is not a danger to the community. The role of community organizations and experts continues to be vital. No legal representation could be fully complete if the community is not involved in helping those who are detained. United We Dream and Unidad Latina en Accion were instrumental in obtaining the release of not only this DACAmented youth, as well as Joshua Mason who shared with the court his experience rehabilitating youth from gang influence.
According to the White House, the U.S. could see its GDP level increase by 0.4 percent, or $90 billion in real GDP, by 2014 if Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs are implemented. DACA has changed many lives across the nation; it has allowed families to purchase homes and cars, and even go into higher education.
Unfortunately, DACA is not the end of the story. Immigrant communities continue to demand more accountability for ICE abuses and a more permanent solution to integrate immigrants into society.
Gang Expert: Joshua Mason