The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the detention of three teens suspected of being gang members.
The lawsuit, filed against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several federal immigration agencies alleges three teenagers are unlawfully detained on “suspicion of being gang members without substantiation,” the New York Times reported.
“If you’re Hispanic and in the Brentwood area here, and you’re a young kid who came here recently, you’re living in a police state,” Bryan Johnson, a lawyer for one of the teenagers, told the reporter. “Anything you do, you go to school, you’re under investigation.”
On August 2, an ACLU staff attorney posted a blog post responding to President Donald Trump’s comments made to a group of law enforcement officers in Brentwood, New York, Breitbart Texas reported. He wrote:
Last week, flanked by police officers in Long Island, President Trump told a crowd of supporters his administration was getting rid of immigrant ‘animals’ who were causing gang violence in their communities. ‘They’re going to jails,’ Trump yelled, ‘and then they’re going back to their country. Or they’re going back to their country, period.’
The writer adds:
But at least nine children from Suffolk County are being held in highly restrictive detention based solely on unconfirmed suspicions that they are affiliated with gangs. Despite the lessons of history, the Trump administration is once again arbitrarily jailing children.
Trump’s comments and the ongoing enforcement action taken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement is in response to a significant number of MS-13 related homicides occurring in the community. MS-13 gang members carried out 17 brutal murders over the past 18 months in Suffolk County.
“Gang violence in our communities is real, and it must be addressed,” California ACLU attorney William S. Freeman told the Times. But, he added, “we can’t address gang violence by violating the Constitution.”
Breitbart Texas reached out to ICE officials who responded, “As a matter of policy, ICE does not comment on pending litigation. However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations. In DHS’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department’s mission, uphold our laws while continuing to provide our nation with safety and security.
The lawsuit claims ICE detained three teens suspected of being gang members. They claim the allegations are unfounded. In one case, a teen wrote the El Salvador country code, 503, in a notebook. That number is linked to MS-13, the Times admitted. Brentwood High School suspended the teen following the incident. Police in Brentwood arrested the teen on a charge of suspicion of disorderly conduct. After making bail, ICE officers took him into custody.
Police arrested a second teen suspected of “killing someone,” the lawsuit states. Lawyers claim they stopped him only because he wore an El Salvador soccer jersey.
ICE arrested the third teen after he “admitted to being in a gang,” the Times stated from the lawsuit. Lawyers said his admission is not true and said immigration officials did not give him the opportunity to gather any belongings or to communicate with his mother or an attorney.
An ICE official with knowledge of the circumstances, speaking to Breitbart Texas on condition of anonymity, said ICE defines a “gang member” as a person who shares the gang’s identity and its purpose of engaging in criminal activity. ICE also defines a “gang affiliate” as a person who is an associate of a gang member but who is not formally initiated into the gang, but who also shares the gang’s values.
The official stated a person would be identified as a gang member if they admit to being a member of a gang, or if they have been convicted of violating “Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 521 or any other federal or state law criminalizing or imposing civil consequences for gang-related activity.”
ICE also uses the additional criteria to determine gang membership or affiliation. The person must meet at least two of the criteria listed below and at least one or more of the criteria must have occurred in the past five years:
- Subject has tattoos symbolizing or identifying a specific gang;
- Subject frequents an area notorious for gangs and or associates with known gang members;
- Subject has been seen displaying gang signs/symbols;
- Subject has been identified as a gang member by a reliable source;
- Subject has been arrested with other gang members on two or more occasions;
- Subject has been identified as a gang member by jail or prison authorities;
- Subject has been identified as a gang member through seized or otherwise lawfully obtained written or electronic correspondence;
- Subject has been seen wearing gang apparel or been found possessing gang paraphernalia.
ICE officials say the crackdown on MS-13 gang members will help the Hispanic community, Breitbart News’ Edwin Mora reported. He agency says their actions will keep the Hispanic community safe by removing gang members who frequently prey on their community.
“MS 13 gang members are involved in all sorts of criminal activity whether it’s prostitution, sex trafficking, drugs, firearms and they victimize the very communities they live in,” Acting-ICE Director Thomas Homan told Fox News last month.
“So if the immigrant community is being victimized, they don’t want them in the community either,” he added during a briefing with reporters at the White House.