U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are planning a nationwide roundup of teenage gang members who entered the country illegally. Some of those being targeted include teens who entered as Unaccompanied Alien Children.
Calling the targeted enforcement action an expansion of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, Reuters reported the action targets teenagers between the ages of 16- and 17-years-old.
Reuters cites an internal memo obtained from an unnamed source at ICE. The news service claims the move is an expansion of the deportation policy previously established under the Obama Administration where teens were only arrested for deportation if they had been convicted of a crime. The new action targets teens allegedly tied to criminal gangs.
The memo lists criteria for determining gang affiliation, Reuters stated. To be designated as a gang member the person must meet two of the following:
- Having gang tattoos
- Frequenting notorious gang locations
- Wearing gang apparel
The targeted enforcement operation is scheduled to begin on Sunday, the memo states. While the agency does not officially comment on pending law enforcement actions, an unnamed official told Reuters the operation is still scheduled to begin Sunday but could be rescheduled.
Immigration lawyer David Leopold of Ulmer & Berne told Reuters they are concerned that innocent teens could be arrested during the operations.
“In many cases, children don’t freely decide to join a gang. They are threatened by older gang members and forced to get a gang tattoo if they live in a certain neighborhood,” he told the news service.
The memo states the operation will also target parents who crossed the border illegally with their children and who are the subject of an order of removal from an immigration judge, along with people who originally crossed the border illegally as children without their guardian and have since turned 18.
Enforcement and Removal Operations officers have been directed to identify people in their specific areas of operation who meet the above criteria.
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made the targeting of criminal gang members a priority. In April, Breitbart Texas reported Sessions sent a warning to MS-13 gang members, saying, “We are targeting you.”
“The MS-13 motto is kill, rape, and control,” Sessions said during a speech at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip, New York. “I have a message to the gangs that are targeting our young people: We are targeting you. We are coming after you.”
In June, an FBI official testified before the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and called MS-13 the most violent and most organized criminal gang in America.
“MS-13 is not the largest street gang in the United States; it is increasingly the most violent and well-organized,” FBI Assistant Director for New York told the representatives.
On June 10, Breitbart Texas reported that the numbers of unaccompanied minors (UACs) being apprehended at our southern border with Mexico, particularly from El Salvador, was once again on the rise. Although there had been a six-month downtrend, 8,005 UACs from El Salvador have been apprehended after crossing the border illegally since October 1, 2016. There were 1,493 apprehended in May alone — nearly a fifty percent increase from the previous month.
MS-13 members frequently recruit children who are illegal immigrants. The FBI assistant director from New York told members of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence that MS-13 members are “typically much younger than those connected to other street gangs.” They take “cues from the gang instead of relying on a productive family structure. Also, those emigrating from El Salvador to the United States are known to be exposed and desensitized to extreme violence at an early age.”