ICE Deport Undocumented Immigrants as Gang Members

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On August 4, 2006, a policy called the “ICEGangs Database: Data Entry and Use” was established, allowing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport any undocumented immigrants as gang members, based on criteria that are not only ill-defined but also allow for racism. As revealed by Ali Winston in a February 2017 Intercept article, the ICEGangs Database directive lists ten rules (specified in Sections 6.3.1. to 6.3.10 of the document), and only two out of the ten are required to enter an undocumented immigrant into the database, even if the individual has not previously been convicted of a crime. Those identified in the database become higher priorities for deportation.

Although the ICEGangs Database identifies specific guidelines for documenting gang affiliation, the standards are as vague as, “Subject has been identified as a gang member through a reliable source,” “Subject has been seen wearing distinctive gang style clothing,” and “Subject has been identified as a gang member through documented reasonable suspicion.” Use of ambiguous descriptors, such as “reliable source” and “reasonable suspicion,” makes it particularly easy for ICE to accuse undocumented immigrants of gang affiliation and thus to add them to the ICEGangs database.

As Winston notes, “Gang documentation is a unilateral designation by law enforcement and is extremely difficult to challenge in criminal court.” Furthermore, he reports, “ICE’s own policy for gang documentation explicitly instructs ICE to keep all mention of gang databases or gang intelligence collection out of court documents.”

After the 2016 presidential election, the treatment of undocumented immigrants has become a public issue, as President Donald Trump has scapegoated immigrants—undocumented or otherwise—for many of the nation’s problems. However, the corporate media have not adequately reported on the ICEGangs database.


Winston Ali, “Vague Rules Let ICE Deport Undocumented Immigrants as Gang Members,” The Intercept, February 17, 2017,

Winston Ali, “Marked for Life: U.S. Government Using Gang Databases to Deport Undocumented Immigrants,” The Intercept, August 11, 2016,

Student Researcher: Brisia Reales (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)