ICE wears gang-colored glasses | Buzz Blog

ICE wears gang-colored glasses

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Immigrants recently apprehended on suspicion that they are gang members or felons may have been identified as such based on nothing more than a nautical star tattoo. Big surprise: ICE has been doing similar things for nearly a decade.---

According to the Tribune's Sheena McFarland, one immigrant who has no criminal record--save for a stop sign violation--was suspected of being a gang member by law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on his nautical star tattoo which they believe is associated with the Norteños gang.

Let's parse this: a guy who may be in the country illegally gets a stop-sign ticket, the cop sees his nautical star tattoo--and his Hispanic surname--notes that the tattoo may be gang affiliated, ICE somehow receives this information then arrests the man on the shaky premise that, in the words of ICE's spokesperson Virginia Kice, "we want to take that pre-emptive action so they can’t get involved in a crime that has a negative impact on the community."

This is dizzying logic. Really, I felt vertigo for a second.

Here's the money quote from McFarland's story, buried toward the end:

Kumar Kibble, the ICE special agent in charge of the Utah sweeps, said his agency follows a “very tight threshold” for identifying someone as a gang member, including tattoos, clothing and known associates. However, he said, police often struggle with charging gang members with a specific crime, but if they are undocumented, ICE can step in and make the arrest and start the deportation process.

Hey ICE: I've got a hot tip for ya'. In 2008, while working at the Standard-Examiner, I did a trend story on tattoos in the workplace and I interviewed a former Riverdale Police officer who got a compass rose tattoo on her forearm arm once she retired. "I was in law enforcement for 23 years," she told me, "then I had to make a complete change in direction, so it's a compass about direction and staying the course." Now, I realize there may be no reason to believe this woman is violent or criminal, but based on her tattoo, you might want to check to see if she's in the country legally.

Also, the tattoo pictured above was explained to City Weekly for our Nice Tats feature as having the following meaning: "The three nautical stars represent my two sisters and myself. The remaining 10 stars represent the month of my birthday. The total number of stars, 13, is the day of my birthday." Uh huh, yeah right gang banger.

In all seriousness, the attorneys for the to-be-deported immigrants, including City Weekly-profiled attorney Aaron Tarin, say there is racial profiling going on here. If you're young, male, Latino and tattooed, you're asking for trouble.

ICE has a notorious track record for this stuff. For more on that, read the below report from the Migration Policy Institute which discovered that the Fugitive Operations Program wears felon-colored glasses. "Despite [that program's] mandate to arrest dangerous fugitives, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of the individuals apprehended ... from 2003 through February 2008 had no criminal conviction."

Update 2:06 p.m., 8-27-10: According to the Deseret News' Aaron Falk, former KSL anchorman Dick Nourse has a nautical star tattoo on his calf. Something tells me that if old-white-man Nourse were pulled over for a ticket that he wouldn't be suspected of gang affiliations.


Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE's Fugitive Operations Program

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