Advocates seek records on ICE, HSI’s collaboration with police
Immigrant advocates are seeking records from Nassau and Suffolk police and other agencies relating to the arrests and detention of immigrants, as they allege that hundreds of immigrants have been wrongly accused of being gang members in order to be deported.
As News 12 has reported, the nationwide MS-13 gang crackdown dubbed "Operation Matador" has been underway since May. Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, says it has now arrested more than 350 people on either the civil charge of being in the country illegally, or on unrelated criminal charges, such as assault or DWI. Authorities say the crackdown has removed violent MS-13 gang members from the streets.
But immigrant advocates say local and federal law enforcement have been falsely accusing immigrants of MS-13 membership so that immigration judges will consider them a "risk to the community" and detain them for deportation.
The New York Immigration Coalition announced Monday that it has filed Freedom of Information requests with ICE, HSI and the Nassau and Suffolk police departments. The group says it's seeking any internal operation plans, memorandums or sharing agreements between agencies, as well as materials pertaining to training officers and budgets.
Attorney Patrick Young, with the group Central American Refugee Center, is part of the coalition seeking the records. "What we're concerned with is people are being lumped in as gang associates and gang affiliates in order to justify these widespread raids and removals," he says.
Advocates say that’s precisely what happened to a 17-year-old Brentwood High School student who was detained in a California for six months. News 12 spoke exclusively to the teen last week, who said he cries every day because police and immigration officials are “lying.”
Young says the end result is that the immigrant community is stuck between what he calls "two volcanos" -- fear of MS-13, and fear of law enforcement.
"We've really seen a collapse in both counties of the carefully cultivated trust that people had in the police," Young says. "The police need the immigrant community to work with them in order to counter Mara Salvatrucha,” or MS-13.
Both Nassau and Suffolk police officials have stated that they do not ask the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes. Asked for comment on the Freedom of Information requests, an HIS spokeswoman wouldn't comment directly today. In the past, the agency has said, “Operation Matador is intelligence driven. HSI does not profile or make arrests with prejudice, but rather uses reliable information gathered through multiple sources."