Safe Passage Project Helps Long Island Children Challenge Questionable Gang Allegations

Safe Passage, November 22, 2017

On November 20, 2017, a federal district court judge in Northern California issued a sweeping order forcing the government to provide all unaccompanied children who are currently detained with a chance to challenge allegations they are affiliated with gangs if that was the justification for re-arresting them after April 2017! Safe Passage Project provides free legal services to unaccompanied children across New York, including hundreds of children who live on Long Island.

Using Operation Matador and other efforts by DHS and ICE, the government has re-arrested a number of children based on supposed gang affiliations. Some of the clients that Safe Passage Project was representing were re-arrested. The government unfairly re-arrested one of our clients on Long Island and then immediately moved him to California, far from his lawyers. Drawing on the immigrant rights’ legal community, Safe Passage Project partnered with the ACLU of Northern California to challenge the detention of our client by ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Building on our client’s case, the ACLU of Northern California spearheaded a federal lawsuit to challenge how the government is re-arresting many children without offering any method to challenge the validity of supposed gang affiliations.

News articles discuss how many of the gang affiliation accusations fall apart once they are studied. Many accusations are based on perfectly innocuous conduct, such as having a country’s flag posted on a Facebook account.

At Safe Passage Project, our staff has been heavily involved with defending our client and helping the ACLU of Northern California obtain the nationwide injunction. Safe Passage Project staff working on the case include Stephanie Gibbs, Tim Greenberg, Rex Chen, Desireé Hernandez, and our founder Lenni Benson. We are very thankful for the class action litigation team, which includes Julia Harumi Maas and Bill Freeman (ACLU of Northern California), Stephen Kang and Judy Rabinowitz (ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project), Martin Schenker (Cooley LLP), and Holly Cooper!

A quickly-prepared practice advisory about the new court order is available at:

The court’s November 20, 2017 order is available at:

Please contact us for more information about defending unaccompanied children who are in ORR custody after being recently rearrested or the struggles that children on Long Island are facing. Thank you to all our volunteers and supporters who make this possible!