Since President Donald Trump’s election, he’s had his eyes set on deporting as many undocumented immigrants as possible. The MS-13 gang – that heavily populates Brentwood, Long Island, and Los Angeles – comprised of his main targets. Last year, ICE arrested four times more immigrants than in 2016 because they suspected they were gang members. In Long Island, New York the new initiative is called Operation Matador.
In a recent Pro-Publica article published this week in conjunction with New York Magazine, a gang member who’s a minor helps out the FBI in exchange for protection, yet gets imprisoned and now faces deportation. The in-depth profile tells the story of Henry, an MS-13 gang member who was initiated into the gang as a child in El Salvador. There, he witnessed extensive violence and killed another person because of a mandate from his street predecessors. A few years later, in fear of his life, he trekked from El Salvador to Brentwood to join his parents. Eventually, things at home fall apart and after his first year at Brentwood High School (a breeding ground for gang violence), fellow gang members identified him and recruited him once again.
Once re-initiated and helplessly trying to escape from the gang, a Suffolk County homicide detective from Long Island’s Gang Task Force named Angel Rivera approached Henry, and promised if he became an informant he would be granted a new protected identity by the FBI.
Journalist Hannah Drier breaks down the transaction between the two:
The stranger asked Henry to come up with an alias for him. Henry chose the name Tony and the last initial F, for federale. In reality, Tony was Angel Rivera, a Suffolk County homicide detective detailed to the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force. With his menacing face and air of authority, he reminded Henry of El Destroyer, the gang leader back home. And unlike Politis, Rivera spoke Spanish. Henry decided to trust him. He knew about the witness protection program from TV shows, and he thought this could be his ticket out of MS-13. But Rivera never offered him a formal agreement.
While Rivera allegedly attempted to help Henry, the teenager ended up in ICE’s custody and faces deportation. Ultimately, Henry’s life is in jeopardy if he returns to El Salvador, and to make matters worse, he is now incarcerated with the same MS-13 members he snitched on, which makes him fear for his life while imprisoned.
Advocates say authorities aren’t doing enough to protect human beings. Instead, this administration is focused on deportation. Henry initially entered the country under an asylum status.
“The way Henry has been treated by law enforcement and ICE is a terrible example of the irrationality and inhumanity of ICE’s mass deportation agenda. Despite risking his life to protect others from violence, Henry and others like him are forever labeled ‘gang members.’ These actions undermine attempts to build safe and thriving communities,” Alisa Wellek, executive director of the Immigrant Defense Project told New York Magazine.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help Henry relocate if he is freed because going back to Brentwood or El Salvador could mean death. His hearing is slated for Thursday afternoon (Apr. 5) where an immigration judge will determine his fate. Lawyers say they fear for his life because gang members can find out he spoke to reporters and the FBI.