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REPORT: Trump’s DHS ‘Misled’ Police About Gang Raid To Ruthlessly Target Vulnerable Immigrants

Santa Cruz police are saying that the Department of Homeland Security misled them during an operation targeting members of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang. SCPD went into the raids believing they were only targeting gang members. However, in addition to the 12 alleged MS-13 members arrested during the operation, DHS has reportedly detained 10 more people based solely on their immigration status.

Santa Cruz is a sanctuary city, meaning its local law enforcement has pledged not to target residents based on their immigration status. This recent operation with DHS, which took place on February 13, is a stain on the city’s 30 year record maintaining that sanctuary status. The Santa Cruz City Council and its Board of Supervisors voted last month to maintain their status as a sanctuary city, despite President Trump’s threats to cut funding for cities that didn’t cooperate with his immigration policies.

Deputy SCPD chief Dan Flippo said that DHS not only misled the SCPD before and during the operation, but has also not been responsive to their attempts to communicate afterwards. Police Chief Kevin Vogel said that his department had to rethink their relationship with DHS going forward.

“We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust,” Vogel said.

The SCPD has apologized to their community, and the mayor said that the event was “heartbreaking” and has torn families apart.

Related: Industry That Donated to Trump Sees Stocks Soar as ICE Rips Families Apart

DHS denies the claims that they misled the SCPD. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson for San Francisco James Schwab said that DHS had told the local police that any “foreign nationals” encountered during the raid would be held until their identity and case history was determined.

Santa Cruz residents reported that the raids, which used armored vehicles, had sparked panic that people were being targeted for their immigration status under the Trump administration. SCPD first tried to reassure the community that the operation was focused on gang violence, but had to walk that statement back when it became clear that DHS had detained others.

MS-13 is certainly a cause for concern anywhere they operate. They are the first U.S. street gang to have such widespread operations throughout the Americas that the State Department designated them a “transnational criminal organization.” They are involved in drug crime and human trafficking. But obviously, MS-13 does not represent all or even most of the immigrants in America.

This raid shows that DHS and ICE may be willing to use the real but limited threat of gang violence to enter immigrant communities and arrest people regardless of their criminal history, or lack thereof. But these kinds of actions may actual make America less safe: targeting immigrants for detention and deportation makes it less likely that immigrants will report crime within their communities, allowing it to grow. At the same time, it can increase demand for criminal services like human smuggling. The conflation of ordinary immigrants with gangs like MS-13 also ignores the positive contributions immigrants make to their communities.

Related: Trump Sparks Fear, Outrage with description of military operation to deport immigrants

At the same time, the renewed focus on immigrants under Trump is already straining relations with Mexico. And it is clear that federal and local government are increasingly at odds over the issue of immigration as well. That rift could mean less intelligence sharing, and therefore more real crime falling through the cracks.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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Laura has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University, and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies. In addition to Reverb Press, she is a contributor at Mic and Medium.

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