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ICE Operation Weaponized Unaccompanied Minors to Capture their Families

Eight immigrant rights organizations filed a complaint on December 6, on behalf of 400 people swept up this summer in a DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation. The operation used unaccompanied immigrant children who were seeking refuge from the brutality of the Central American criminal gangs to identify and target their relatives who live in the United States. The complaint is calling for an investigation of civil rights violations against eight individuals whose stories are described in the complaint.

The complaint details how ICE officers misrepresented their objectives and coerced young immigrants during the agency’s “surge initiative” from June to August 2017. The operation sought information about the immigration status of parents and other relatives who came forward to sponsor the unaccompanied children. Officers then used that information to locate or lure family members to ICE offices, where they were arrested and detained. Such actions undermine the U.S. obligations under international refugee law and laws governing the treatment of unaccompanied children. these actions by the Department of Homeland Security violate due process rights and right to family unity, protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Diane Eikenberry, associate director of policy for the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) said “In its ongoing efforts to break up families, DHS officials have threatened children, misled their caregivers, and denied them fundamental constitutional protections." The complaint points to the despicable and illegal actions of DHS as demonstrating a deliberate and systematic campaign to use children as bait to ensnare their relatives. In essence this operation is a punitive action directed at children for seeking refuge with their families in the U.S. It punishes their families for offering them protection.

The organizations that filed the complaint are National Immigrant Justice Center, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Women's Refugee Commission, Make the Road New Jersey, Kids in Need of Defense, Raices, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

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