Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in New York City are engaging in an arrest strategy called Operation Matador. The operation is an attempt by law enforcement to arrest suspected gang members, according to ICE. The operation focuses more on people associated with MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha. However, reports from CBS and AlterNet have cast doubt on its integrity. Officers are now being accused of using the operation to detain undocumented immigrants rather than targeting gang members. ICE has arrested nearly 350 people in the New York area in connection with Operation Matador .
Recently, a group of almost 32 undocumented teenagers were detained as part of the operation. Officials suspected the teens were members of MS-13, as reported by The New York Times. The teens, who are not identified because of their age, were held in centers across the country until a judge decided that immigration officials did not have enough evidence to detain them, according to NPR. Officers arrested one teen because they believed him to be associated with gang members.
“Arrests were based on nothing more than a third-hand report from an unidentified local police officer that a child was wearing a certain article of clothing or was seen with certain people,” William Freeman, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told NPR.
CBS This Morning followed ICE officers in New York as they made an arrest of a 20-year-old man. According to the report, ICE agents had photos of the young man flashing gang signs but it is not illegal to be a member of a gang. Yet, the officers told CBS that they would use the gang affiliation against the man in immigration court to deny him a chance at bail.
“The purpose of classifying him as a gang member or a gang associate is because once he goes in front of an immigration judge, we don’t want him to get bail, because the whole point of this operation is to get these known gang members off the street,” Jason Molina, the assistant special agent at the arrest, told CBS This Morning.