The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: 212-627-2227

NYIC Submits FOIA For Operation Matador

LI Law Enforcement Program Appears to Profile Immigrants

New York, NY

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to multiple federal and state agencies for documents relating to Operation Matador, an ICE program that partners with federal and local law enforcement to target gang members.

The requests have been submitted to the following agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (including requests to both Enforcement and Removal Operations as well as Homeland Security Investigations), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Suffolk and Nassau County Police Departments, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Operation Matador has targeted immigrants on Long Island suspected of being affiliated with the gang MS-13. It uses unknown criteria to define "gang affiliation," "gang membership," or "gang associate" and effectively profiles immigrant men of color. For the past few months, the NYIC and the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC) have worked to gather information from immigration legal service providers on how ICE is carrying out gang enforcement on Long Island. Together, the NYIC and I-ARC have noticed that gang enforcement is often used as a pretext to arrest immigrants or deny applications for benefits, a belief that was confirmed through comments an ICE agent made to CBS News earlier this month.

For example, ICE agents and local law enforcement led a pre-dawn raid against a man who was suspected of being armed and a member of MS-13, but for whom they did not obtain a criminal warrant. The arresting officers did not have a criminal warrant, and ultimately only BB guns and pellet guns were found inside.

"Immigration authorities seem to be using supposed gang affiliation as a pretext to detain immigrants and deny them benefits. New York communities will not be safer if immigrants avoid local law enforcement for fear of being arbitrarily locked up and deported. MS13 is terrorizing immigrant communities that want to cooperate with law enforcement, but are increasingly too scared to do so," said Camille Mackler, Director of Immigration Legal Policy at The New York Immigration Coalition.

"Immigration sweeps based on gang allegations manipulate fears of both immigrants and gangs in a way that is unfair and counterproductive. These sweeps are overbroad based on inaccurate information, including information from law enforcement gang databases, which are based on appearances and association rather than on criminal conduct. Additionally, sweeps compromise community safety because raids, detentions, and removals destabilize communities, sowing seeds that can give rise to violence," said Babe Howell, professor at CUNY School of Law.

"CARECEN has been working against MS-13 for more than 20 years. These Trump era immigration raids are driving immigrants, who the police need to work with, underground. The whole Latino community- the primary victims of MS-13- are now being victimized by a politically motivated set of raids," said Patrick Young, Program Director at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Hempstead and Brentwood.


I-ARC is a collaborative of 65 immigration, legal, nonprofit services around New York State, including The Legal Aid Society, the Immigrant Justice Corps, Legal Services NYC, Sanctuary for Families, the Immigrant Defense Project, Catholic Charities Community Services, the Community Justice Clinic at the University of Buffalo School of Law, My Sister's Place, CARECEN-NY, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the New York Immigration Coalition. I-ARC was formed by several legal service providers building on the momentum of the legal efforts at JFK airport in January 2017 in response to President Trump's initial Muslim Ban and the subsequent #NoBanJFK movement.

The New York Immigration Coalition aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all. The NYIC promotes immigrants' full civic participation, fosters their leadership, and provides a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York's diverse immigrant communities.