The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
Workplace of the Secretary
U.S. Division of Homeland Safety
Washington, D.C. 20528
Expensive Secretary Mayorkas,
As legal justice and immigration advocates, we’re writing to precise our critical considerations with ICE’s prioritization of these labelled as gang-involved for detention and removing within the February 18, 2021 interim United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Civil Immigration Enforcement and Elimination Priorities memorandum (“February 18 Memorandum”) issued by the Division of Homeland Safety (“DHS”). Along with counting on the overbroad and excessively punitive class of “aggravated felonies,” we take challenge with what these priorities convey concerning the administration’s dedication to racial fairness and ending mass incarceration.
We strongly urge that you just transfer away from additional integrating the legal and immigration authorized techniques and from false narratives that perpetuate racism and hate. To ensure that this Administration to maintain its dedication to reversing a dangerously punitive and discriminatory immigration system, it should withdraw any reliance on gang affiliations in DHS’s closing enforcement priorities.
The February 18 Memorandum states that ICE will concentrate on folks it has deemed a “public security menace,” with these troubling standards:
- Anybody who has a conviction the place being a gang member or doing one thing for a gang is a part of the crime;
- Anybody who’s over 16 and who deliberately participated in a gang.
The February 18 Memorandum’s prioritization of individuals labelled as gang concerned is problematic as a result of legislation enforcement’s tactic of gang labelling is predicated on arbitrary elements which can be extremely susceptible to discriminatory enforcement. Black, Latinx, and immigrant individuals are grossly overrepresented amongst these labelled gang-affiliated by legislation enforcement. Standards for making use of such labels are opaque, arbitrary and inflected with racially-biased standards. The propensity for discriminatory enforcement is especially alarming in mild of accelerating proof of white supremacy ideologies inside legislation enforcement, together with gang policing models.
By persevering with to focus on immigrants for arrest and deportation underneath this label, ICE is perpetuating this racial bias that instigated the preliminary labeling, since typically the sources of gang identification are from interagency cooperation and information sharing that happens amongst numerous governmental companies. For instance, in 2017, ICE’s execution of Operation Matador resulted in massive sweeps of immigrant youth labeled as gang-involved primarily based on flimsy proof that the youth weren’t given a adequate alternative to rebut, ensuing not solely in pointless and sometimes irrevocable detentions and deportation but additionally in re-traumatization of youth who could have been refugees or asylum seekers. This follow was efficiently challenged within the Saravia class motion lawsuit, which sought the discharge of youngsters taken from their houses and detained primarily based on gang allegations. The federal court docket ordered hearings for detained youth in these circumstances, resulting in the discharge of over 30 of the 35 younger individuals who have been granted hearings. The administration choice to prioritize “intentional participation in a gang” wholly ignores the teachings from DHS’s abuse of energy throughout Operation Matador, the place ICE officers admitted to pretextually utilizing gang allegations as a way to incarcerate and goal youth, and pursue an anti-immigrant agenda.
Gang databases: overly broad and racially biased
The factors for gang labelling are notoriously obscure and thus ripe for arbitrary and discriminatory software, as evidenced by the well-documented issues which have arisen across the nation with native gang databases.
These issues embrace however will not be restricted to, lack of oversight, self-fulfilling and arbitrary use of things to enter individuals right into a database, points with abuse, and the discriminatory ideologies gang-policing models maintain. For instance, gang-related colours are generally utilized by legislation enforcement as an figuring out issue of gang-involvement. The NYPD’s gang database reportedly contains almost each coloration as a possible gang coloration – together with black, gold, yellow, purple, purple, inexperienced, blue, white, brown, khaki, grey, orange, and lime inexperienced – highlighting the arbitrariness of such elements and their vulnerability to discriminatory enforcement and abuse.
Errors in gang databases have additionally been effectively documented. In Chicago, an immigrant man was taken into custody by ICE primarily based on defective allegations that he was in a gang, largely as a result of he was included within the Chicago Police Division’s gang database. Data sharing with immigration officers is a widespread concern. In response to a report from Chicago’s Inspector Normal, ICE has accessed the database over 32,000 instances. Gang databases in Chicago have been topic to intense scrutiny by native activists and residents, who’ve known as for its abolition. A state audit confirmed that California’s gang database, CalGang, was stuffed with quite a few inaccuracies, together with the inclusion of infants as designated gang members. Not too long ago, California’s legal professional normal revoked entry to information that the Los Angeles Police Division entered in a state gang database after a significant scandal revealed its officers have been fabricating proof with a view to add folks to the database.
New York Metropolis’s gang database has been a specific supply of controversy, the place hundreds of people, together with a whole lot of youngsters, have been added since 2014. Greater than 99% of these within the database are Black, Hispanic or non-white, and there’s no requirement for a legal conviction to be included. Gang labeling typically results in massive scale, militarized gang takedowns, just like the Bronx120 takedown in 2016 – the biggest gang sweep in New York Metropolis historical past. A 2019 CUNY Faculty of Regulation report famous most Bronx120 defendants weren’t accused of violent crimes and about half weren’t even accused of being gang members.
Gang prosecutions and “convictions”
The linking of DHS priorities to folks with legal convictions doesn’t alleviate the considerations round legislation enforcement gang labelling practices. A conviction involving a gang allegation isn’t convincing proof of gang membership. Within the notorious Bronx 120 gang takedown, lower than half of the defendants have been even alleged to be gang members. Gang allegations proffered primarily based on the types of doubtful proof beforehand described are almost not possible to problem in pretrial detention and immigration court docket, can lead folks to simply accept responsible pleas in alternate for leniency, and lead jurors to convict on inadequate proof due to bias and worry. A major instance is the elevated use of state and federal conspiracy prices, together with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) legal guidelines, which may end up in inaccurate pleas and convictions as a result of potential sentences are so harsh.
Many are charged via what seems to be guilt by affiliation presumptions (i.e. who they know, the place they lived, and what gangs they have been assumed to belong to) by way of complicated legal guidelines initially designed to take down the Mafia. Once more, within the Bronx120 takedown, the vast majority of convictions in opposition to defendants in that case, who have been charged underneath RICO, have been achieved via plea offers although solely half have been even alleged to be gang-involved. Thus, prioritizing folks with “gang-related” conviction could effectively goal non-gang members and people who plead, not due to whether or not or not they’re truly responsible, however due to the coercive power of RICO and related prices.
Whereas ICE’s interim enforcement memo solely applies for 90 days, the steering is an alarming indication of the place the Administration could also be headed. It ignores longstanding considerations raised by communities across the nation concerning the harms, abuses, and risks of gang labelling and databases. In cities with “sanctuary” protections, gang labelling has created a trapdoor for deportation. DHS’s memo appears to not solely overlook that actuality however embrace it.
Citing a have to fight gangs, the prior Administration of Donald Trump threatened mass deportations, inciting panic and worry in immigrant communities. The Biden Administration’s validation of gang labeling echoes these similar fear-mongering justifications. Any everlasting coverage should make a clear break from determinations with such clear discriminatory and abusive impacts.
The GANGS Coalition
Asian Individuals Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Individuals Advancing Justice – Asian Regulation Caucus
Asian Individuals Advancing Justice – Chicago
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Challenge (ASAP)
Black Alliance for Simply Immigration
Black and Brown United In Motion
Brennan Middle for Justice at NYU Faculty of Regulation
The Bronx Defenders
Brooklyn Group Bail Fund
Brooklyn Defender Companies
Capital Space Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
Catholic Authorized Immigration Community, Inc.
Middle for Constitutional Rights
Middle for Fashionable Democracy
Church World Service
Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible
Detention Watch Community
DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Transferring
Enlace – Chicago
Households For Freedom
First Give attention to Kids
The Fortune Society
Freedom For Immigrants
Freedom Community USA
H-CAN Immigration & Refugees Motion Group
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, CUNY Faculty of Regulation
Immigrant Authorized Useful resource Middle (ILRC)
Immigrant Protection Challenge
The Jewish Council on City Affairs
The Authorized Assist Society
Nationwide Immigrant Justice Middle
Nationwide Immigration Regulation Middle
Nationwide Immigration Challenge (NIPNLG)
Nationwide Community for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
Community in Solidarity with the Individuals of Guatemala
New Sanctuary Coalition
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York County Defender Companies
New York Immigration Coalition
Organized Communities In opposition to Deportations
The Policing & Social Justice Challenge at Brooklyn School
Public Defender Coalition for Immigrant Justice
Queens Neighborhoods United/Queens Barrios Unidos
Launch Growing old Individuals in Jail
Restore The 4th
Surveillance Expertise Oversight Challenge
Taos Immigrant Allies
Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Useful resource Middle
The Staff Circle
Younger Middle for Immigrant Kids’s Rights
Prof. Alex Vitale, Brooklyn School
Prof. Babe Howell, CUNY Faculty of Regulation
Prof. David Brotherton, John Jay School
Rashida Richardson, Visiting Scholar, Rutgers Regulation Faculty
The Trump marketing campaign and Administration’s nativist and racist rhetoric have been used to hyperlink nonwhite immigrants to violence and particularly gang violence, see, e.g., Trump: Immigrant Gangs “Animals, not Individuals,” BBC Information (Could 17, 2018), https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-44148697
 See Michael German, Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Proper Militancy in Regulation Enforcement, Brennan Ctr. for Justice, (Aug. 27, 2021), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/hidden-plain-sight-racism-white-supremacy-and-far-right-militancy-law; see additionally Ctr. for Juvenile Regulation and Coverage, Loyola Regulation Sch., 50 Years of Deputy Gangs within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division (Jan. 2021), https://lmu.app.box.com/s/ho3rp9qdbmn9aip8fy8dmmukjjgw5yyc.
 Saravia v. Periods, 905 F.3d 1137 (ninth Cir. 2018).
 Saravia v. Periods (Due Course of for Immigrant Youth), ACLU N. California, https://www.aclunc.org/our-work/legal-docket/saravia-v-sessions-due-process-immigrant-youth#:~:textual content=Overpercent2035percent20childrenpercent20werepercent20granted,Ninthpercent20Circuitpercent20inpercent20Octoberpercent202018.
 See The New York Immigration Coal, supra observe 6, at 20.
 See Nereida Moreno, Immigrant Launched from Detention after Being Wrongly Listed as Gang Member, Chi. Trib. (Jan. 25, 2018), https://www.chicagotribune.com/information/ct-met-immigrant-released-jail-0126-story.html.
 See Maria Ines Zamudio, Federal Immigration Businesses Used Chicago Gang Database 1000’s Of Instances, WBEZ (Apr. 12, 2019), https://www.npr.org/native/309/2019/04/12/712788497/federal-immigration-agencies-used-chicago-gang-database-thousands-of-times.
 NYPD’s Gang Takedown Efforts: Listening to Earlier than the Comm. on Pub. Security of the N.Y. Metropolis Council, 2018 Leg., 2018-2021 Sess. at 25 (N.Y.C 2018) (assertion of Dermot Shea, NYPD Chief of Detectives).
 See Ok. Babe Howell, Worry Itself: The Impression of Allegations of Gang Affiliation on Pre-Trial Detention, 23 St. Thomas L. Rev. 620 (Summer season 2011). See additionally The New York Civil Liberties Union and The New York Immigration Coal., supra observe 6.
 Mitchell Eisen, Brenna Dotson & Gregory Dohi, Probative or Prejudicial: Can Gang Proof Trump Cheap Doubt?, 62 U.C.L.A. L. Rev. Disc. 2 (2014). In a mock trial designed to result in acquittal gang allegations in opening and shutting tripled the conviction price. One of many authors, Dohi, is a California decide.
 See Ok. Babe Howell and Priscilla Bustamante, supra observe 22.