Held for Months, Teens Accused of MS-13 Affiliation Start Returning to Long Island - WNYC News - WNYC

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 by Sarah Gonzalez

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Over the summer on Long Island, immigration agents started picking up teens, known as "unaccompanied minors," and accusing them of being members of the international gang, MS-13. Local police made many of the allegations based on the clothes they wore and who they spoke to in and out of school.

"It's almost as though the police are saying we know [a gang member] when we see it, trust us. And the whole point is that's not enough," said William Freeman, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California who represented three teens in a class-action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Justice, the Office of Refuge Resettlement and others.

The ACLU said at least 32 teens, mostly from Long Island, have been held in immigration detention over allegations that they are gang members. 

According to court hearings attended by WNYC, immigration judges were saying over and over again that they were not convinced many of the teens were gang members. But they didn't have the jurisdiction to release them from detention. Now, under a federal ruling, they do.

A federal judge in Northern California granted immigration judges temporary authority to release unaccompanied minors from detention if they are convinced they do not pose a danger. 

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The Department of Justice declined to comment on the judge's decision. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Suffolk County Police Commissioner, who has been collaborating with immigration agents to combat the presence of MS-13 on Long Island, did not respond to requests for comment. But police commissioner Timothy Sini told News 12 he stands by "every single detention" his department collaborated on, and said he makes no apologies for his strategy.

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