A California mother and grandmother who has lived in the United States since the age of 11 but who is undocumented was taken into custody in February 2016 on suspicion of being a gang member. The new focus of the Obama administration is on deporting people who are involved in criminal activity. While it seems as though this would protect law-abiding noncitizens, this is not necessarily the case.
A person can be added to the gang database on circumstantial evidence. In the case of this woman, she was visiting a friend when the LAPD served a warrant connected to a robbery case. They were accompanied by agents from Homeland Security Investigations. At HSI’s request, the woman was taken into custody and placed in a detention facility despite having no connection with the robbery. She faces possible deportation even though there is no solid evidence to connect her to any criminal activity.
Her case is not unique. Advocates say that others are being swept up in an overly broad net that defines people as involved in gang and criminal activity based on very tenuous connections or hearsay. In this case, since this woman is a domestic violence survivor, it may be possible to get her a special visa as a crime victim, but the process may take too long.
Being threatened with deportation can be a devastating experience for a person whether they have spent a few years or decades in the country. However, there might still be routes that allow a person to remain in the country. People who finds themselves or a family member in such a situation might want to speak with an attorney who is familiar with the complexities of immigration law and deportation defense.