ICE Uses Dubious Gang Affiliations to Target Immigrants

Lawsuits filed by immigrants claim that federal agents are tapping local gang databases to target individuals for deportation–no matter how flimsy the alleged gang affiliation might be.

Recent lawsuits claim that federal immigration agents are targeting people for deportation based on spurious allegations of gang connections, reports The Marshall Project. A lawsuit filed in July by Luis Vicente Pedrote-Salinas, 19, claims he was stopped by Chicago police in 2011 and spent a night in jail on charges of underage drinking that were subsequently dropped. He was arrested later in 2011 during an immigration raid targeting gangs and was detained for six months. Pedrote-Salinas now faces deportation to Mexico, which he left when he was 5 years old. His lawsuit alleges that the officers involved in his first arrest were part of a “gang suppression mission” that added his name to their citywide database of suspected gang members. Officers said he admitted to being a member of the Latin Kings. He claims they lied and that he’s never been a gang member.

Immigrants’ advocates and attorneys say that more cases like Pedrote-Salinas’ are likely to emerge under the Trump administration, which has vowed to aggressively track down immigrants in gangs. Local police have long shared gang intelligence with federal immigration authorities. But the feds may be using that information more now as Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests have increased nearly 40 percent from last year. Critics of gang databases say that because of the loose criteria used to identify potential members, people with no gang affiliation are likely to be swept up in raids meant for serious criminals. Several recent lawsuits have been filed by immigrants who say they were wrongly identified as gang members and detained.