Trump Parachutes into LI to Stoke Fear Against Immigrant Youth of Color

May 22nd, 2018

Immigration advocates expose the impact of Trump Administration’s gang allegations in new report

NEW YORK, NY - On Wednesday, May 23rd, President Donald J. Trump will join U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center on Long Island to promote their shared agenda of dehumanizing and criminalizing immigrant communities. Last week the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic (INRC) at the CUNY School of Law released a report, Swept up in the Sweep: The Impact of Gang Allegations on Immigrant New Yorkers, detailing the devastating impacts this profiling has on immigrant communities.

Advocates and allies will rally outside the Morrelly Homeland Security Center at 10AM.

"Trump isn’t coming to Long Island to make America great - he's just using Long Island to boost his flagging poll numbers by stoking fear and resentment. What he won’t tell you is that his administration is actually making America more dangerous, by interfering with local law enforcement efforts to combat gang affiliation, and instead profiling immigrant youth of color. We need our local and state officials to stand strong against Trump, and discern the difference between fearmongering and facts,” said Anu Joshi, Director of Immigration Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition

The report details how the Trump administration is profiling immigrant youth of color by exploiting law enforcement efforts to combat gang activity. As a result, immigrant youth are detained for prolonged periods, have had their visa applications denied, and have faced deportation without proper due process. The report’s findings are based on survey responses from practicing attorneys, advocates, and community leaders from the New York City metro area.

Relatedly, last week the NYIC also filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York to compel ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to disclose information regarding Operation Matador (more information below). ICE denied a previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Report highlights:

  • 78% of service providers report that law enforcement made gang related allegations against immigrant clients or community members.
  • 50% of service providers report that law enforcement makes such allegations “on the streets” and 33% indicate home raids.
  • Law enforcement uses questionable criteria to claim that Latinx individuals are gang members: wearing certain kinds of clothes, doodling in school notebooks, or living in high gang activity neighborhoods.
  • The “evidence” is often uncorroborated and would not meet evidentiary standards in a criminal court, although the threshold is lower in immigration court.
  • Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have used gang allegations to deny asylum or legal permanent residency, and justify the detention and deportation of Latinx youth.

In the coming weeks, the NYIC and INRC will be releasing a toolkit for immigration lawyers representing clients accused of gang affiliation and Know Your Rights materials for community members.


Operation Matador is an ICE program which targets immigrants affiliated with the gang MS-13, based predominantly on Long Island and in the Lower Hudson Valley. It uses specific criteria to loosely define “gang affiliation” and effectively profile immigrant youth of color. For the past few months, the NYIC and the INRC have worked to gather information from immigration legal service providers on how ICE is carrying out gang enforcement on Long Island. Together, the NYIC and the INRC have noticed that gang enforcement is often used as a pretext to arrest immigrants or deny applications for benefits.

For example, ICE agents and local law enforcement lead a pre-dawn raid against a man who was suspected of being armed and in MS-13, but was subsequently detained for entering the country illegally. Gang membership in itself is not illegal, the arresting officers did not have a criminal warrant, and only BB guns and pellet guns were found inside.

Six months ago, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for documents relating to Operation Matador, an ICE program that partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement to target gang members. The FOIA was submitted to the following agencies: ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Suffolk and Nassau County Police Departments, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

ICE denied the request for information, CBP provided limited information, and USCIS has yet to give a satisfactory response.