WASHINGTON September 14, 2017 – The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter in opposition to a proposed bill that would create a new, sweeping basis for deporting and detaining immigrants. The House of Representatives is expected to bring the “Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act” (H.R. 3697) up for a floor vote today.
Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the ACLU, said:
“The pressing issue facing Congress regarding young immigrants should be a clean legislative fix for Dreamers, not policies like this bill that seek to enact sweeping and unconstitutional new powers to criminalize young immigrants and racially-profile Latinos.
“The ACLU recently filed a class action lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on behalf of young immigrants who were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and classified as gang members without any evidence. The violation of the rights of minors that came to this country fleeing violence because of the color of their skin is already too common, completely unjust, and unwarranted. We cannot let this policy become law. We’re taking the fight from the courtroom to the halls of Congress. It cannot be illegal to be Latino or an immigrant in this country.”
In its vote recommendation and analysis, the ACLU found that H.R. 3697:
- Promotes widespread racial profiling, risking violation of individual’s Fifth Amendment equal protection rights
- Seeks to deport immigrants based on a mere “reason to believe” they have been involved in gang activities, including individuals who have not engaged in any criminal activity (In many cases, H.R. 3697 could make activities protected by the First Amendment, including what clothes they choose wear and which areas they choose to spend their time, cause for deportation)
- Grants the Department of Homeland Security massive discretion to designate a group of people as a “criminal gang,” based on secret evidence, and without meaningful judicial review
- Bars important forms of humanitarian relief for individuals fleeing persecution and children facing situations of abuse, which violates U.S. treaty obligations
- Expands the scope of mandatory detention, in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Additionally, H.R. 3697 would provide new powers for the Trump administration to target immigrant youth for arrest and detention based on extremely broad and unreliable criteria for gang membership. During the Trump administration, ICE has targeted immigrant youth for deportation as gang members, “if they meet two or more criteria, including having gang tattoos, frequenting an area notorious for gangs, and wearing gang apparel.”
The ACLU is currently challenging ICE’s policy and practice of arresting youth based on unfounded gang allegations that originate with local law enforcement agencies in Gomez v. Sessions. Following arrest by ICE, the youth have been transferred to jail-like facilities far from home, without a hearing and without any opportunity to challenge the gang allegations against them, on top of several other violations of their rights. Before arrest, the young immigrants were previously released to their parents by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
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The chief probation officer in charge of the Yolo County Juvenile Detention facility — one of two secure placement facilities under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house unaccompanied immigrant children — has confirmed the ACLU’s charges that the arrests and detentions are based on unsubstantiated allegations.
The chief probation officer in charge of one of the two national facilities housing immigrant youth who were arrested during an anti-gang law enforcement sweep in Long Island sustains the ACLU’s allegations that these young immigrants are detained without proof of gang membership or affiliation.
The ACLU vote recommendation and analysis of H.R. 3697 is available here:
The ACLU’s press release on the Gomez v. Sessions class action lawsuit is here:
A first-person blog post from one of the young immigrants detained under false gang allegations is online here:
A blog post from ACLU attorney Stephen Kang on the Gomez v. Sessions case is here: