A long and wandering article in the WaPo: Trump’s MS-13 crackdown: Going after suspected gang members for immigration violations:
In President Trump’s first five months in office, ICE investigators arrested 311 alleged MS-13 members on a variety of charges, nearly twice the rate during the 16 months before he took office, according to statistics from Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of ICE. Those same statistics show the number of arrests of alleged MS-13 members only for immigration violations like Ceron’s has more than quadrupled.and boy are they pissed:
Matt Allen, ICE’s assistant director for investigative programs, said picking up suspected gang members for immigration violations instead of criminal violations gets them off the streets before they can commit crimes.
“We certainly don’t need to wait for them to accumulate criminal convictions before taking them out of circulation using our civil immigration authority,” Allen said.
In MS-13 hotspots, like the Washington area and Long Island, ICE agents now routinely embed with local law enforcement, Allen said. If suspected gang members can’t be arrested on criminal charges but are undocumented, they will be arrested administratively.
“That kind of a posture is new,” Allen said. “Going out and operating with a local gang unit, seeing what they see, and having our tool in their toolbox by having an ICE [agent] with them.”
ICE points to the case of Omar Antonio Villalta, 22. HSI agents arrested the Salvadoran during a traffic stop in Sterling, Va., on July 5. Villalta had no criminal history but was arrested for being in the country illegally.
While in ICE custody, Villalta was linked to a quadruple homicide in Long Island, where police say MS-13 hacked to death four young men before burying their remains in a park earlier this year. Nicknamed “Anticristo,” Villalta has been charged with four counts of murder in a federal court in New York. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Immigration attorneys and advocates argue many of these arrests are based on flimsy evidence and racial profiling.Going into the DACA debate, most of the stories are going to focus on the "dreamers" who look good, not the thousands involved with gangs, crimes and drugs.
Bryan Johnson, a Long Island immigration lawyer, represents about a dozen immigrants who arrived as unaccompanied minors and who have been labeled MS-13 members. They include a 19-year-old suspended from high school this spring for having “504” — the country code for his native Honduras — on his backpack and a drawing of devil horns, both considered MS-13 symbols by law enforcement, and an 18-year-old from El Salvador who police said had been “in the presence of confirmed MS-13 members on well more than four occasions,” according to an ICE memo.
“It’s like they suspended the U.S. Constitution for these kids,” Johnson said. “Getting rid of MS-13 is important. But it’s just as important to make sure that an innocent kid isn’t sent back to Central America and killed.”
ICE has also arrested unaccompanied minors before they turn 18, handing them over to ORR custody. They are not entitled to an immigration bond hearing and can spend months or even years behind bars.
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against the Trump administration, accusing officials of “a concerted effort to arrest, detain, and transport children far from their families and attorneys, and to deny them immigration benefits and services to which they are entitled under U.S. law, based on flimsy, unreliable and unsubstantiated allegations of gang affiliation.”
ICE investigators deny the allegations and stand by the criteria used to determine if someone is a gang member, Allen said. Among the signs: gang tattoos, displaying gang signs, wearing gang apparel, frequenting an area “notorious for gangs” and being identified as a gang member by reliable sources, informants or “through reasonable suspicion.”
“It’s obviously not a reviewable determination,” Allen said, “but we use it with discretion.”
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