BROWN: Unopened beer can, gang database errors fuel deportation case
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Luis Vicente Pedrote-Salinas, who was brought illegally into the U.S. as a young child, is facing deportation next week because his name is in the Chicago Police Department’s gang database.
Pedrote, 25, and his lawyers say he is not and never has been a gang member, but was falsely labeled as one after being arrested six years ago for allegedly having an unopened can of beer in his truck.
They filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the city in federal court demanding Pedrote’s name be cleared in hopes of blocking his deportation.
It is the second time in recent months the MacArthur Justice Center has brought suit over the police department’s gang database, which they say is both inaccurate and racially biased.
The problems caused by those inaccuracies are compounded because the city shares the information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which uses it as legal justification to support deportation proceedings.
The sharing of Chicago police gang intelligence with federal authorities is a notable exception to the city’s “sanctuary city” protections for undocumented immigrants. It’s an exception immigration advocates want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to eliminate.
“If Chicago really wants to be a sanctuary city, it really needs to end this practice,” said Vanessa del Valle, one of Pedrote’s lawyers.
In the meantime, lawyers have their hands full protecting individuals such as Pedrote already caught up in the system.
I sat down briefly with Pedrote before his press conference at the Westside Justice Center.
He reminded me of many of the other earnest young undocumented immigrants known as the DREAMers because they qualify to remain in the country under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
With no criminal record, Pedrote also should qualify, but his immigration attorney, Chris Bergin, said his application was rejected. Bergin believes the same false gang database information was the cause.
Pedrote told me he was smuggled across the Arizona border with his mother at age five. They came to Chicago to join his father who had found work here.
Pedrote graduated in 2010 from Kelly High School where he says he was a member of the football and wrestling teams and got good grades. His parents own a home in Gage Park.
I asked him why he never got caught up in the gangs.
“I was always busy at school. I liked to go to high school, you know, because there were a lot of girls there. And I liked the grades, not that I was trying to be a know-it-all, but I liked the feeling, just to be with friends,” he said.
“If I turned out to a gang, it was just going to be completely different. It was not a good lifestyle. Dangerous. One day I could just be gone. I didn’t want that for my parents,” he added.
Pedrote was out of school and working in a factory when Chicago police arrested him for possession of liquor as a minor in 2011 as he left a relative’s residence.
The charges were quickly dropped, but that wasn’t the end of it.
The arresting officers wrote in their report they were on a “gang suppression mission” and that during the arrest, Pedrote admitted to being a member of the Latin Kings.
His attorneys say that was a fabrication by police, who wrongly assumed he was a gang member because he was a young Latino arrested in Latin Kings territory.
They say records show ICE agents relied on that false report to justify grabbing Pedrote from his parents’ home later that year in a sweep targeting the Maniac Latin Disciples.
Pedrote spent six months in detention before being released on bond. Ever since he’s had to spend his earnings from three jobs on lawyers instead of college tuition as his parents had hoped.
Those who wind up in CPD’s gang database are not notified nor given a chance to challenge the findings.
That strikes me as un-American.