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Deportation and Gangs

Values: Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally under the law

In a fair society, everyone has the right to be judged on merit rather than on considerations such as what they look like, where they live, or whom they know. And everyone accused of wrongdoing has a right to present a defense in a full and fair hearing before an impartial judge.

Problem: US federal gang enforcement policies unfairly target immigrant communities

Each year, the US government deports thousands of individuals identified as “confirmed or suspected gang members.” Gang databases are the tool law enforcement generally uses to assess gang membership and activity. These label individuals as gang members because the individual resides or associates with a family member known to be in a gang or lives in a neighborhood where there is a high concentration of gangs and gang members, but may actually have no involvement whatsoever with a gang.

  • Immigrants are permanently blocked from legal status and/or deported based on racial profiling and guilt by association. 

By relying on flawed gang databases, the government imposes guilt by association and collective punishment by targeting people — disproportionately people of color — not for their own individual culpable conduct but for their association with groups considered to be dangerous. They may not have been convicted or even accused of an actual crime.

  • Immigrants targeted have little opportunity to defend themselves in a fair hearing. 

Individuals unfairly identified as gang members in secret government databases have few options to get their names removed. In California, where the state gang database runs to more than 200,000 names, only two people have successfully petitioned for removal.

  • An unfair process results in unfair punishment. 

An individual suspected of being a gang member faces the possibility of detention, deportation, and permanent separation from family and community in the US. And a young undocumented person whose name shows up on a gang database will almost certainly have trouble gaining relief from deportation under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, regardless of  family and community ties in the US.

Solution: Restore fairness to gang and immigration enforcement policies

  • Increase transparency around gang databases
  • Improve the review process for gang databases and make it easier for people mistakenly included to have their names removed
  • Remove the designation “confirmed or suspected gang member” as a bar to eligibility for relief from deportation under DACA.
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