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CUNY Law’s INRC and The NYIC Publish New Report on Policing and Surveilling Latinx Communities

May 29, 2018


On May 18, CUNY Law faculty members Nermeen Arastu and Talia Peleg, of our Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic (INRC), and Babe Howell, expert in criminal law and gang policing and surveillance, partnered with the the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) to release a new reportSwept Up in the Sweep: The Impact of Gang Allegations on Immigrant New Yorkers.


The report examines how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are using over-broad gang allegations to deport and detain Latinx communities across New York State.  Through an extensive field study, the report details the Trump administration’s use of supposed-gang enforcement to carry out punitive immigration policies and shows how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with other federal agencies and law enforcement, uses arbitrary methods to profile immigrant youth of color to allege gang affiliation. As a result, immigrant youth are detained for prolonged periods, have had their visa applications denied, and have faced deportation without proper due process.

“Gang databases are purely based on stereotypes. Gang databases do not require any criminal background or even proof of gang membership, instead include being seen with neighbors, friends or families; observed in local bodegas or restaurants or parks; and social media and video content. There are no notices and checks to assure accuracy of these databases. Relying on these gang databases for immigration or detention decisions violates due process, equal protection, and adherence to fact-based decision making.” – Babe Howell, professor at CUNY School of Law, as quoted in the official press release


CUNY Law’s INRC has long represented immigrant populations that have been wrongly characterized as national security threats or criminals to justify their deportation. Many of the INRC’s existing clients have been caught in a web of over-broad post-9/11 security measures. Within the context of the clinic’s work, advocates have seen individuals deported or denied benefits because they attended a certain mosque, dressed in a certain way, were seen in bodegas or community parks in surveilled low-income communities, or engaged in legitimate, non-violent political activism.

“For over a decade, we have seen the shattering impact of the government’s post-9/11 ‘anti-terrorism’ policies, which has labelled immigrants as ‘national security threats’ based on nothing more than their nationality, ethnicity, or religion. These policies have clear devastating impacts: indefinite detention, permanent banishment, distrust, trampled civil liberties, and the absence of enhanced safety.” – Talia Peleg, Visiting Clinical Law Professor in the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic at the CUNY School of Law, as quoted in the official press release


“Our research shows that little so-called ‘proof’ such as the color of one’s clothes, the bodega where they bought their lunch, or the shape of a tattoo can be used by the U.S. government to justify a gang allegation and deport aspiring Americans. By carelessly painting large swaths of New York’s Latinx immigrants as gang members, the U.S. government has again used threats and fear as justification for the erosion of the constitutional and civil rights of communities of color.” – Nermeen Arastu, Clinical Professor & Co-Director of the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic at the CUNY School of Law, as quoted in the official press release


  The shared goal of the INRC and NYIC is to help policymakers, community members, and practitioners see the broader patterns of discriminatory profiling and surveilling and prevent past mistakes. The findings of the report are based on a survey of over 40 practitioners and advocates who represent immigrant communities around New York State.

We are proud to highlight the work of many of CUNY Law’s recently graduated INRC students (listed as researchers, editors or contributors on page 2 & 4 of the report) completed the extensive research, editing, drafting and most importantly, brainstorming, that led to the completion of this report. The INRC faculty note that they were continually impressed and grateful for their creativity, relentless focus on impacted voices, and commitment to this project despite their heavy litigation docket.  CUNY Law’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility Project (CLEAR Project) contributed relevant perspective on discriminatory policing and immigration enforcement in New York’s Muslim communities.


The report is available at 


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