Lawyer: ICE nabs students over unfair MS-13 label

- Between April and May, a number of immigrant 15- and 16-year-old students from El Salvador and Guatemala have been suspended from Bellport High School in Suffolk County, Long Island. They were suspended on allegations of ties to the gang MS-13, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said that the school has no evidence that indicates the students are affiliated with the gang. She said the only thing school officials based it on is what they wear and where they came from.

"Wearing a Chicago Bulls T-shirt, like having the Salvadorian flag on their Facebook page when they come From El Salvador," she said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have detained at least two of the students. Attorney Peter Brill represents one of the detainees. He said ICE picked up his client, whose identity will not be released because he is only 16, at his home last month and took him to a detention facility in Virginia.

"These students who are being accused of very minor misconduct, all of a sudden that minor misconduct becomes gang-related activity," Brill said.

Why were these students believed to be gang members?

"We do not disclose the exact criteria that we use to confirm someone is a gang member," Suffolk County Police Commissioner said. "But it is a written policy that requires certain indicators to be met before someone is labeled as a confirmed gang member."

The NYCLU and the group Latino Justice filed Freedom of Information requests with South Country Central School District and the Suffolk County Police Department.

"What we have is the school is now sharing this with the school resource officers, the school resource officers are now sharing this with the Suffolk County Police Department and next thing we know all of these kids are on a list of known gang affiliates," Brill said.

"School resource officer is a police officer – they work for the Suffolk County Police Department," Sini said. "Any intelligence that the school resource officer is developing about a particular student will be shared with the rest of the department."

The South Country Central School District said it cannot confirm if students are being held in immigration detention facilities. The district's policy is that disruptive behavior, such as engaging in gang-related behavior, carries a range of possible disciplinary action and the district has zero-tolerance for it. The district said it does not share immigration status with police.

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