ACLU files suit alleging government deporting innocent gang bangers
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in California, opens yet another legal front against President Trump’s goal of stepped-up 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 Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UAC, and 73 family members who came under Mr. Obama but who have gone through court, been ordered deported, yet are ignoring those orders.The UAC 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-year-old 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.