These people. They are just hideous. Absolutely Hideous. I could barely stomach to read through the entire story. That they’d do this to this CHILD – ABSOLUTELY EVIL. We didn’t get these types of stories during 44’s Administration. There’s a reason for that. They betrayed this child.
Henry thought that talking to the cops would help him escape MS-13. Instead, it put his life in even more danger.
By Hannah Dreier
If Henry is killed, his death can be traced to a quiet moment in the fall of 2016, when he sat slouched in his usual seat by the door in 11th-grade English class. A skinny kid with a shaggy haircut, he had been thinking a lot about his life and about how it might end. His notebook was open, its pages blank. So he pulled his hoodie over his earphones, cranked up a Spanish ballad, and started to write.
He began with how he was feeling: anxious, pressured, not good enough. It would have read like a journal entry by any 17-year-old, except this one detailed murders, committed with machetes, in the suburbs of Long Island. The gang Henry belonged to, MS-13, had already killed five students from Brentwood High School. The killers were his friends. And now they were demanding that he join in the rampage.
Classmates craned their necks to see what he was working on so furiously. But with an arm shielding his notebook, Henry was lost in what was turning out to be an autobiography. He was transported back to a sprawling coconut grove near his grandfather’s home in El Salvador. In front of him was a blindfolded man, strung up between two trees, arms and legs splayed in the shape of an X. All around him were members of MS-13, urging him on. Then the gang’s leader, El Destroyer, stepped forward. He was in his 60s, with the letters MS tattooed on his face, chest, and back. A double-edged machete glinted in his hand. He wanted Henry to kill the blindfolded man.
A week later, Henry was called to the principal’s office to speak with the police officer assigned to the school. In El Salvador, Henry had learned to distrust the police, who often worked for rival gangs or paramilitary death squads. But the officer assured Henry that the Suffolk County police were not like the cops he had known before he sought asylum in the United States. They could connect him to the FBI, which could protect him and move him far from Long Island.
Under normal circumstances, Henry’s choice would have been his salvation. By working with the police, he could have escaped the gang and started fresh. But not in the dawning of the Trump era, when every immigrant has become a target and local police in towns like Brentwood have become willing agents in a nationwide campaign of detention and deportation. Without knowing it, Henry had picked the wrong moment to help the authorities.
Last year, under Trump, ICE arrested nearly four times more immigrants simply for being suspected of belonging to MS-13 than it did in 2016. Long Island has been the epicenter of the new initiative, called Operation Matador. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both delivered major speeches in front of the Suffolk police last year and congratulated them on embracing the administration’s strategy. Trump also invited the mother of Kayla Cuevas, the murdered girl who had flashed the Bloods sign at Henry, to his State of the Union address in January. In private, some Long Island detectives and prosecutors grumbled about the ICE partnership, saying it hampers efforts to investigate the gang. But as the wave of arrests attracted federal grants, additional staff, and positive national media attention, Suffolk County effectively began to serve as a local arm of ICE, rounding up immigrant kids for deportation.
Children’s advocates on Long Island started to warn teenagers to avoid the cops. “We can’t work with Suffolk County police, because any information they have is going to go straight to ICE,” says Feride Castillo, who runs a program for at-risk youth on Long Island. “I tell my immigrant kids all the time not to open their mouths — I don’t care what they’re promising you.”
Now that he had helped the police, Henry assumed his witness-protection papers would be coming through any day. When he turned 18, he started telling friends and teachers he trusted that he would soon disappear to California. Then one morning in August, as Henry was making lunch for his shift at the toilet-paper factory, the federales finally came for him. But they weren’t from the FBI or the witness-protection program. They were from ICE. The same unit that Henry had helped to arrest members of MS-13 was now pursuing a deportation case against him, using the information he had provided as evidence.
Confused, Henry told the agents he was already working with the police. He asked them to call Tony. Instead, after interrogating him, the ICE agents put him on a bus. He watched the Long Island streets he knew disappear, replaced by the high-rises of downtown Manhattan, then darkness as the bus was swallowed by a tunnel to New Jersey. He was headed to an ICE detention center full of young men suspected of being MS-13 members — the very same ones he had snitched on.
ICE is full of nothing but monsters. Plain and simple.