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As Trump Targets Teenagers for Deportation, Immigrants Push Back with Direct Action

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In Austin, Texas, four undocumented immigrants were arrested protesting President Trump’s crackdown on sanctuary cities and plans to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This comes as Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out raids targeting undocumented teenagers it says are affiliated with gangs. ICE’s criteria for assessing gang affiliation includes whether teenagers have tattoos, wear clothing typical to a gang or even spend time in an area that’s known to have gangs. We speak with Catalina Adorno, one of those arrested in Texas, and with Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos about how many immigrants are being wrongfully targeted as gang members.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s show with the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants living in the U.S., and the growing resistance to those policies.

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, carried out raids targeting undocumented teenagers it says are affiliated with gangs. ICE’s criteria for assessing gang affiliation includes whether teenagers have tattoos, wear clothing typical to a gang or even spend time in an area known to have gangs. The National Immigration Law Center criticized the raids, saying, quote, “We have seen babies labeled as potential gang members,” unquote.

During a White House press briefing Thursday, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan used a series of scare tactics to sensationalize the gangs, particularly MS-13, and spoke in front of a series of images of young brown men with tattoos.

THOMAS HOMAN: Gang members are involved in a broad—a broad range of criminal activity, including murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, weapons trafficking, human smuggling and other crimes. … Make no mistake: Organized, violent, transnational gangs threaten the safety of our communities, not just in major metropolitan areas, but in our suburbs.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in El Salvador today, where he says he’s addressing violence by gangs like MS-13. During a speech Tuesday, President Trump repeatedly called immigrants “animals.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife, because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer, folks.

AMY GOODMAN: The following day, on Wednesday, 15 immigrants and their allies blocked an intersection near the Texas State Capitol in Austin in a peaceful sit-in protest that called on lawmakers to repeal repeal SB 4, the state’s harsh new anti-immigrant law. They also called on Trump not to end the DACA program, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has given more than 750,000 young immigrants permission to live, work and study in the U.S. Among those arrested were four DACA recipients, who chanted “Undocumented and unafraid!”

PROTESTERS: Undocumented, unafraid! Undocumented, unafraid! Undocumented, unafraid! Undocumented, unafraid!

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by two guests. In San Antonio, Texas, Catalina Adorno is with us, DACA recipient arrested Wednesday. And she’s a volunteer organizer with a number of different groups. And in Los Angeles, we’re joined by Alex Sanchez, executive director and founding member of Homies Unidos, a gang violence prevention and intervention program with offices in L.A., Denver and El Salvador.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Catalina, talk about your arrest, why you risked arrest as a DREAMer.

CATALINA ADORNO: Hi, yes, my name is Catalina. As you mentioned, I am a DACA recipient, and I did risk arrest on Wednesday by participating in the civil disobedience action. During that day, I remember just like going into the street and just feeling really determined. People were asking me if I was afraid, and I kept saying that “I’m not. I’m no longer afraid.” As you mentioned, a couple of years ago, right before DACA, folks who were also undocumented, they took the streets, and they rallied, and they protested. And they came out saying that we were no longer afraid, that we were undocumented, and we were unafraid, and we were unapologetic. And I think Wednesday was a huge reminder of that, of taking action, but also to show that we’re not afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: Alex Sanchez, a lot has happened in these last few days. Many arrests have taken place, ICE arrests of teenagers. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is in El Salvador. Some might say he’s fleeing from President Trump’s attacking tweets on him. But he is there, he says, to talk about gangs. What are your thoughts on the Trump administration’s approach to immigrants right now and talking about immigrants as gang members?

ALEX SANCHEZ: Well, I think it’s a dangerous path, a real concern in regards of how many of the unaccompanied minors that are fleeing violence from Central America can be wrongly charged or assumed to be gang members and processed for deportation. I think it’s a dangerous road because it has many of our young youth afraid of going into the court hearings. They’re skipping their courts, making them deportable immediately. And it’s terrorizing psychologically our communities, our immigrant communities, from being able to walk freely in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: During the news conference on Thursday, the ICE acting director, Homan, spoke a lot about gangs, and he also talked about targeting teenagers and saying that they don’t have to wait before someone is convicted. They just get—try—want to get people who are arrested.

ALEX SANCHEZ: Well, they’re using gangs as a pretext of going into our communities and letting our immigrant community be able to let them. Nobody likes gangs. Obviously, gangs commit crimes. But the efforts to eradicate the gang problem have never been addressed on the federal level to really look at the circumstances that creates a gang environment, youth getting involved into gangs. So, to continue demonizing a certain community based on certain youth involved in some gangs continues taking advantage of that rhetoric to continue the anti-immigrant movement that he has.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is most important now? We just have a minute. I want to ask you both of you this question. To happen now, Alex?

ALEX SANCHEZ: Well, I think El Salvador has considered gangs a terrorist organization since 2015. And it’s now violating the civil rights of and due process of all those people. We don’t know what Sessions is going to come back with. We know that there’s been social cleansing, extrajudicial killings in El Salvador. People are fleeing behind those policies. And basically, now we’re looking at Sessions coming up with policies that we don’t know where they’re going to take us. So that’s the most dangerous thing to expect, the uncertainty.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Catalina Adorno, we just have 15 seconds, but what you’re demanding now?

CATALINA ADORNO: Yes. I think the threats against our immigrant community have—are nothing new. They’ve always been there. I think, right now, because of the political atmosphere that we’re currently living in, we are going to continue to receive these threats that are going to bring in more violence, more deportations, more family separations. And that’s why it’s important for all of us to come together, for all of the immigrant community to come together and take action, which is a strategy that has never failed us, and to take high risks, because that’s the only way that we can win.

AMY GOODMAN: Catalina Adorno and Alex Sanchez, I want to thank you for being with us. That does it for our show. Our website, democracynow.org. Happy birthday, Rob Young!

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