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California's 'Gang Injunctions' May Block Immigrants from DACA, DAPA

January 02, 2015 (1 min read)

"As head of deportation and defense organizing for RAIZ, a migrant-led group in Orange County focused on stopping the deportation of immigrants, Alexis Nava Teodoro’s caseload is brimming with people who qualify for protection under President Barack Obama’s new immigration plan but are too terrified to apply.

Nava comes face to face every day with immigrants who have no criminal record but might have once been gang members or, much more frustrating for him, people who just happen to live in a gang neighborhood and are automatically suspect because of geography.

For them, the slightest connection to gangs — however tenuous — may lead to detention and deportation rather than the legal status they dream of when they apply. This legal barrier may affect countless of undocumented people, but it has been lost in the excitement over Obama’s executive action last month that will extend protection to an estimated 5 million immigrants here illegally. The plan expands the number of people eligible for deferred deportation if they came to the U.S. as children or if they are the parents of American citizens.

But first, they must apply.

That’s a scary proposition for undocumented immigrants who may live in a neighborhood covered by a gang injunction. For them, the application process is a minefield that might flag Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and may land them in detention and ultimate deportation.

Gang injunctions are restraining orders filed by prosecutors that restrict specific and unnamed gang members from a host of activities. They often include curfews, limit social interaction and may even prohibit wearing clothing that matches gang colors. Injunctions are so broad that many residents who live in a targeted neighborhood find themselves linked to gangs just because of their location. And if any are relatives or friends of a suspected gang member, there is an added layer of guilt by association." - Haya El Nasser, AJAM, Jan. 2, 2015.