With Trump desperate for a distraction from the daily Russian collusion media onslaught, and perhaps under the advice of his brand new counsel, Reuters reports that U.S. immigration agents are set to launch nationwide raids next week to arrest teenagers who entered the country without guardians and are suspected gang members, as part of President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants. The raids, targeting teenagers 16 and 17-years-old, will begin on Sunday and continue through Wednesday.
Trump, who campaigned on the promise of tough immigration enforcement, has made deporting gang members, especially those belonging to the El Salvador-based Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a top priority.
"You have a gang called MS-13. They don't like to shoot people. They like to cut people. They do things that nobody can believe," Trump said at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last month. In a May speech, the president promised the gang would be "gone from our streets very soon, believe me."
And while the crackdown was to be expected as part of Trump's previously stated intentions, where the administration will promptly get in trouble with civil rights defenders, are the selection criteria to decide who is and isn't an alleged gang member : according to Reuters, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "said in a statement that a person can be identified as a gang member if they meet two or more criteria, including having gang tattoos, frequenting an area notorious for gangs and wearing gang apparel."
As such, the raids represent a departure from practices during the Obama presidency, when minors could be targeted for deportation if they had been convicted of crimes, but were not arrested simply for suspected gang activity or membership. This time mere suspicion -i.e. gang tattoos and apparel - will be sufficient "probable cause." USCIS told Reuters it does not comment on plans for future law enforcement operations, but that it focuses on individuals who pose a threat to national security and public safety.
Minors apprehended entering the country without a guardian are placed in custody arrangements by U.S. Health and Human Services, often with a family member living in the United States. And while various law enforcement agencies maintain databases of individuals suspected of having gang affiliations, but the lists have come under fire from civil rights groups, the same groups will be in uproar over what is about to happen, especially if the sweeps end up netting a material number of illegal immigrant "targets."
"This is troubling on several levels," Hincapie said. "For one, the gang databases in places like California are rife with errors. We have seen babies labeled as potential gang members."
Immigration lawyer David Leopold of Ulmer & Berne said innocent children could be swept up in the raids.
"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 said.
Well, starting Sunday that same tattoo will switch from an asset to a major liability.
In addition to minors, the raids planned for next week will also target parents who crossed the border illegally with their children and have been ordered deported by a judge, as well as immigrants who entered the country as children without guardians and have since turned 18, according to the memo. "The document directs field offices to identify people in their areas that meet the criteria."
In 2016, the Obama administration targeted those two groups in raids that sought to deter a surge of illegal border crossings by families and minors that began in 2014. Obama, however, directed immigration agents to prioritize for deportation only those who had committed serious crimes or had recently entered the country. The result was a steep drop in criminal alien deportations under the previous president.
The remaining illegal immigrants were expected to become eligible, predictable voters.