Demonizing teens and other immigration news – August 24, 2017



Photo by Alan Levin, published under Creative Commons license.

Trump has inveighed against MS-13, invoking fear of gang members flooding into the United States. The opposite is true: victims of MS-13, frantically trying to escape recruitment and rape and murder, have fled their homes in Honduras and El Salvador, seeking refuge here. But reality doesn’t fit with the party line, so ICE is arresting the victims.

MS-13 is a brutal gang. It operates transnationally, and some gang members are here in the United States. That’s hardly surprising, since the gang originated here in the United States, and then spread to Central America after some gang members were deported there.

NPR’s excellent three-part series (see below) details some of the extreme measures taken against Latino teens by ICE.

Despite Escaping to the U.S., These Brothers Are Still Terrorized by the MS-13 Gang (NPR, 8/16/17)

“The brothers say the gang tried to recruit them in their high school. But they refused to join. Their friends refused, too. And that’s when they all became targets.

“They macheted my friends,” the oldest brother said in Spanish. NPR agreed not to use the names of the brothers and their mother because they fear for their safety.

“Many of the undocumented children who came to the U.S. without their parents or a guardian — like these three brothers — say they feel cornered. They’re being terrorized by MS-13. At the same time, they have reason to worry that police and even school officials are looking at them as potential gang members….

“MS-13 started in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It spread through gang members who were deported to El Salvador, and then back across the border into the U.S., to cities and towns across the country….

First, the youngest brother was suspended from high school for wearing a shirt with a Chicago Bulls logo on it. Bull horns are the symbol for MS-13.

The family is fighting the suspension. The mom says she had no idea about the gang connection when she bought the shirt. School officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“It’s kind of racist,” the youngest brother said. “Only the Latino students are told they can’t wear certain clothes….

“It’s something that I try to understand,” the mom said. “I think, how is it possible that they can accuse my son of being part of the gang when he went to police to protect him from the gang?”

Undocumented Teens Say They’re Falsely Accused of Being in a Gang (NPR, 8/17/17) One tten was arrested for fighting with a suspected MS-13 member on a soccer field, another for drawing the numbers 503 in a notebook — the international calling code for El Salvador, where he is from. A 16-year-old girl, who walked from El Salvador to the United States – a month and a half-long odyssey – was arrested after being “observed at Brentwood High School with other confirmed MS-13 members.” She spent more than a month in jail before a judge ordered her released.

“According to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents in a number of cases reviewed by WNYC and NPR, the clothes and colors students wear to school, the classmates they speak to and what they’re suspended for is being used as evidence in immigration court that students are affiliated with MS-13, and that they should be detained and deported….

“Anyone that they can even remotely link to MS-13: They have a family member who was a gang member or they were seen sitting in class next to someone who was a gang member, they’re fair game,” said immigration lawyer Bryan Johnson.

Sports Jersey or Gang Symbol? Why Spotting MS-13 Recruits Is Tougher Than It Seems (NPR, 8/18/17)

“Latino students on Long Island say that they’re the only ones who get in trouble at schools for wearing clothing brands associated with MS-13, including Versace belts, Nike shoes and Chicago Bulls jerseys.”

A Honduran student got in trouble for writing 504 — the international area code for for Honduras — and doodling devil horns.

“But the student and his mother are adamant he’s not a gang member. She doesn’t understand how a man with devil horns can be painted on the front of her son’s school, Huntington High, and he gets in trouble for drawing horns.

“The Huntington High School mascot is the blue devils. The mom says the school should not promote a symbol that students can get suspended for drawing….

“The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this month against the Trump administration, alleging that undocumented teens are being “illegally” detained based on “unsubstantiated evidence” that they’re gang members.”

Trump order could give immigration agents a foothold in US schools (The Guardian, 8/22/17)

“As many as 20,000 police officers are stationed inside American schools to help maintain safety. Called school resource officers, they are employed by local police or sheriff’s agencies and historically have few ties to immigration authorities. But Trump’s immigration order, signed in January, revived a decades-old program which trains local law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement and deputizes them with federal authority. Since some of these newly empowered police departments also deploy officers to schools, attorneys and civil rights activists say school resource officers can easily become a conduit for personal information about students and their families, such as undocumented status, that is supposed to be protected under federal student privacy laws….

“On Long Island, where police are battling the brutal street gang MS-13 – an effort applauded by Trump in a visit last month – attorney Bryan Johnson said that innocent teenagers at Brentwood high school have been swept up after educators shared student disciplinary records with school resource officers from the Suffolk County police department, which has a partnership with federal officials to crack down on gang violence….

“Suffolk County police commissioner Timothy Sini told WNYC “there are a number of ways” school suspensions can reach immigration officials. “And kudos to school resource officers for being diligent,” he said.”

And in other news

Judge prepared to order first DREAMer deported under Trump back to United States to make his case (USA Today, 8/23/17)

“U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said he needs to hear first-hand from Juan Manuel Montes, 23, to rule on the undocumented immigrant’s claim that he was deported illegally by border agents.

“Lawyers for Montes say he was wrongfully removed from the country around 1 a.m. on Feb. 19 because he had protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA. The Trump administration said Montes voluntarily left the country, forfeiting his protection from deportation.”

Dems to Turmp: We won’t yield on wall funding (The Hill, 8/23/17)

“Some Republicans also oppose the wall. Most border district lawmakers from both sides of the aisle oppose a physical wall and instead favor high-tech border security solutions.”

Places with fewest immigrants push back hardest against immigration (CNN, 8/23/17)

“Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who holds a South Florida district with significant communities of not only Cuban-Americans but also immigrants from Central and South America, is one of the few Republicans who represent a seat with a large foreign-born population. He says one reason so many of his GOP colleagues are drawn toward restrictionist measures is that most represent areas where immigrants remain foreign in every sense of the word.

“There is no substitute for getting to know people and interacting with people and observing them forming a part of your community, whether it’s at church, or working at a restaurant, or a park,” Curbelo says. “And obviously that type of interaction just humanizes people who would otherwise either look foreign or seem foreign.”

Opinion: The US deportation system verging on lawlessness (The Guardian, 8/22/17) Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, describes the inadequacies of immigration courts and how they are getting worse under Trump.

” The rule of law requires that functioning tribunals arbitrate disputes fairly, efficiently and accurately. The immigration court system, which decides who will be deported and who may remain in the US, fails this test.…

“Our client survived several assassination attempts before fleeing to the US and presenting himself at the border to seek asylum under US law. He was detained and eventually released to attend immigration court hearings.

“It took four more years before he finally received a ruling this May that granted him asylum, during which time he was separated from his wife and children who continued to face danger in Honduras.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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