When Help Is Nowhere to Be Found: What Government Documents Reveal About MS-13 Operations in Long Island, New York City, and the Lower Hudson Valley

On May 27, 2020, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), released the report When Help Is Nowhere to Be Found: What Government Documents Reveal About MS-13 Operations in Long Island, New York City, and the Lower Hudson Valley. Struggling to Reunite Our Generation (STRONG) Youth Inc. and the Deportation Defense Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University also contributed to the report. After making several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as local law enforcement agencies, the NYIC obtained a trove of emails directly refuting official claims that Operation Matador was strictly a gang enforcement effort. The documents reveal a specific pattern of cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and ICE, despite public denials and internal knowledge of Operation Matador’s real purpose.

Key Findings:

  • Operation Matador, originally conceived of as a 90-day operation, is now a permanent task force co-led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

  • From the start, Operation Matador was conceived to carry out immigration enforcement, even as it purported to be a gang enforcement operation.

  • Certain federal agencies, including the Attorney General for the Eastern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, expressed concern over a duplicative task force, with many of the same partners already participating in existing gang-enforcement task forces on Long Island, and noted that it could fracture efforts to address the growing presence of MS-13.

  • Though the New York City Police Department responded to the Freedom Of Information Law request by stating that they had no responsive documents, the documents produced by ICE included emails with detectives from a Queens precinct as well as the Queens District Attorney’s office on at least one specific case.

  • The Suffolk County Police Department was made aware of the civil immigration enforcement that took place during Matador operations but continued to participate.

  • Though the Nassau County Police Department told federal partners they were wary of being publicly associated with initiatives such as the Operation Matador Task Force, they continued to meet with ICE to provide manpower and other support to Matador operations, and eventually sent officers to be trained to join Matador.

Download the report here.


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