Deportartion by Any Means Necessary: How Immigration Officials Are Labeling Immigrant Youth as Gang Members

May 23, 2018
4:47 PM

In an effort to combat the MS-13 propaganda coming out of the White House these days, we wanted to share the findings of a new report released this week by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

The report, titled “Deportation By Any Means Necessary: How Immigration Officials are Labeling Immigrant Youth as Gang Members” highlights how immigration officials across various sub-agencies of the Department of Homeland Security are accusing immigrant youth of gang involvement, through undisclosed and unsupported claims, putting young people at immediate risk of detention and deportation.

In conjunction with Professor Laila Hlass of Tulane University Law School, the report is the result of a national survey of immigration attorneys in 21 states.

“Our research found that a young person may be branded with a gang label based solely upon the assessment of a single school safety officer, immigration agent, or police officer,” Hlass said. “Gang allegations are a new and significant component of the school to deportation pipeline, where immigrant youth find themselves at the crosshairs of an unforgiving immigration enforcement system and aggressive law enforcement.”

According to an IRLC media release, here are some of the findings from the report:

  • Gang accusations, including false accusations, can greatly influence the outcome in a variety of situations, including: decisions on asylum cases, DACA applications, and other forms of relief from deportation, as well as release from detention.
  • The survey found the types of evidence often being used to support gang allegations created serious due process concerns, with the burden of proof falling on young people to prove a negative: lack of gang involvement. Evidence used includes: investigatory notes, social media photos and school records, focused on things like the kind of clothing worn.
  • A majority of attorneys (84 percent) surveyed are proactively screening their clients to learn if any kind of allegation of gang-involvement may have been leveled against them through any setting. More than half of respondents (54 percent) use FOIA requests to learn of any possible gang allegations in their client’s immigration file and 40 percent review their client’s social media accounts.
  • Many lawyers handling these types of cases are informing their clients of the ways that gang allegations can now arise by distributing Know Your Rights information (63 percent) and educating them on how social media indicators could be used against them, as well as how these accusations jeopardize their status and freedom.

“Every single one of us aspires to live and to care for our youth in safe and nurturing communities, but the Trump administration has devoted its energy towards demonizing and criminalizing youth of color,” said Rachel Prandini, staff attorney at the ILRC. “The continued narrative that young Latinos are all gang-affiliated is one that is conveniently perpetuated by the White House to further instill fear of communities of color and facilitate their disposal through a mass criminalization and deportation agenda. No one should have to face jail or deportation for a charge brought because they wore the wrong color to school or live in the wrong neighborhood, like this survey shows is happening now. We should protect our youth, not criminalize them.”

You can read the full report below: