ACLU files suit against Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

The ACLU has filed a clas­s­ac­tion law­suit charg­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is wrongly ac­cus­ing young il­le­gal im­mi­grants of gang af­fil­i­a­tions as a way to short-cir­cuit their rights and force them into speedy de­por­ta­tions.

The law­suit, filed in fed­eral district court in Cal­i­for­nia, opens yet an­other le­gal front against Pres­i­dent Trump’s goal of steppedup im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, with ad­vo­cates hop­ing to blunt a new ef­fort by Home­land Se­cu­rity to find and de­port some of the Cen­tral Amer­i­cans who jumped the bor­der dur­ing the Obama era.

Im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates said the gov­ern­ment has started to fab­ri­cate broad ac­cu­sa­tions of gang mem­ber­ship or af­fil­i­a­tion to jus­tify sweep­ing en­force­ment ac­tions, nab­bing peo­ple who the ad­vo­cates say de­serve pro­tec­tion and le­gal sta­tus, not crim­i­nal treat­ment and de­por­ta­tion.

“We’re talk­ing about teens who were picked up for play-fight­ing with a friend, or for show­ing pride in their home coun­try of El Sal­vador,” said Stephen Kang, at­tor­ney with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Im­mi­grants’ Rights Pro­ject, which is han­dling the case on be­half of a hand­ful of teenage il­le­gal im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. dur­ing the UAC surge un­der Pres­i­dent Obama.

More than 100,000 UAC, or Un­ac­com­pa­nied Alien Chil­dren, have surged into the U.S. over the last five years, pushed from home by a com­plex series of causes and en­ticed here by lax en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, try­ing to head off a new surge, an­nounced a ma­jor en­force­ment ac­tion last month that re­sulted in the arrest of 120 UACs, and 73 fam­ily mem­bers who came un­der Mr. Obama but who have gone through court, been or­dered de­ported, yet are ig­nor­ing those or­ders.

The UACs tar­geted for arrest had all turned 18 or had crim­i­nal his­to­ries or sus­pected gang ties, ICE said.

The ACLU said the gov­ern­ment is stretch­ing the def­i­ni­tion of gang ties in or­der to draw a broader drag­net.

Lawyers sin­gled out three ju­ve­niles who were each ar­rested in Suf­folk County, New York, and even­tu­ally turned over to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, which is pur­su­ing de­por­ta­tion cases.

One case in­volved a 17-yearold who jumped the bor­der in 2015, and was placed with his mother in Brent­wood, New York. He was quickly ex­pelled from high school for cut­ting classes, and went on to rack up sev­eral tres­pass­ing charges, the law­suit ad­mits.

But the lawyers say the teen, iden­ti­fied by ini­tials J.G. was ha­rassed by lo­cal po­lice who re­peat­edly stopped him and fi­nally, in April, ar­rested him and ac­cused him of be­ing in a gang and be­ing in­volved in a mur­der. The law­suit says the detectives cited his cloth­ing and the peo­ple he was with as ev­i­dence.

He even­tu­ally pleaded guilty to ly­ing about his iden­tity.

The gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, says he ad­mit­ted to be­ing a mem­ber of MS-13, hangs around MS-13 ar­eas, had been iden­ti­fied by oth­ers as a gang mem­ber, and had been seen dis­play­ing gang signs or sym­bols.

J.G. de­nies any gang mem­bers, the law­suit says.

“The po­lice and im­mi­gra­tion agents are ar­rest­ing kids be­cause they think they look like gang mem­bers, but youth are the fu­ture of this coun­try and they have a lot to of­fer,” the teen said in a state­ment re­leased by the ACLU. “Don’t judge peo­ple by their ap­pear­ance.”

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