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How a Tattoo Can Get You Detained by ICE

Tattoos are the most common way ICE and federal immigration agents determine an individual’s gang affiliation, but what actually qualifies as a gang tattoo is left up to enormous interpretation. A gang affiliate label can be the sole basis for asylum denials, detention without due process, and deportation. Because of this, tattoo removal clinics are seeing an unprecedented spike in immigrants, asylum seekers, and even DACA recipient seeking to remove their tattoos in fear of how this could affect their immigration status. We spoke to several people who’ve been going through the painful process of removing their tattoos in order to avoid harassment from government agencies.

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