'Dreamer' facing deportation in Tacoma sues for his release
UPDATE: 2/17/17, 3:30 p.m. PT
A federal judge in Seattle declined to immediately release Daniel Ramirez Medina, as his attorneys requested Friday in U.S. District Court. Instead, Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue directed that Ramirez get a bond hearing in immigration court within a week.
Donohue also said the case would return to his court on the question of jurisdiction, and whether the court will hear Ramirez's claims that his detention was unconstitutional and he was denied due process. The Department of Justice is moving to dismiss the federal case on jurisdictional grounds. Meanwhile, Ramirez faces deportation proceedings in a separate immigration court.
Judge Donohue also noted the unusual nature of the case, the factual dispute about what happened during Ramirez's arrest, and how others in a similar situation as Ramirez want answers.
Ramirez's attorneys say they are investigating detention center documents that were allegedly altered to show gang ties. The document (pictured on the right) shows Ramirez wrote: “I came in and the officers said I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear an orange uniform. I do not have a criminal history and I’m not affiliated with any gangs.”
The document appears to show the first words erased, to read "I have gang affiliation..."
There’s a tattoo on Daniel Ramirez Medina’s forearm. It shows a nautical star and the words “La Paz – BCS.” It marks where the 23-year-old DACA recipient was born: La Paz, Baja California Sur. Ramirez says he got it when he was 18 and chose the design “because he liked the way it looked,” according to his attorneys.
Department of Justice attorneys, who are defending the arrest of Ramirez, describe it as a “gang tattoo” in court documents. Ramirez’s attorneys refute claims of gang affiliation and said immigration agents had no basis to arrest their client on February 10 and hold him in detention.
Ramirez currently faces deportation at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and is challenging his detention in federal court.
Why Ramirez's case is in the national spotlight
This case has sparked widespread interest and concern because, at the time of his arrest, Ramirez was lawfully authorized to live in the U.S. through the DACA program, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Some also see this case as a test of how the Trump administration may approach enforcement around DACA, which was created by Obama in 2012. This is the first known arrest of a DACA recipient, or “dreamer,” since President Trump took office.
The DACA program gives temporary legal status to young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, meet certain criteria and pass a background check. Ramirez was approved for the program twice, in 2014 and 2016. He came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 7, and recently moved from California to Washington for a better job. He has a 3-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen.
Ramirez was arrested after immigration agents came to his father’s home in Des Moines, south of Seattle, with a warrant for the father.
“For some reason they went ahead and arrested Daniel as well,” said Matt Adams, one of Ramirez’s attorneys with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “Even though he told them, ‘Hey I have status. Look here’s my work permit.’"
Conflicting accounts about arrest
Court records provide conflicting accounts of what happened at the time of the arrest.
According to the Justice Department, Ramirez’s father gave permission for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officers to enter his apartment. ICE asked Ramirez if he was in the U.S. illegally, and Ramirez responded “yes.” ICE also asked Ramirez if he had ever been arrested, and Ramirez responded “yes.”
After Ramirez was arrested and taken into detention, an ICE officer asked if he’d ever been involved in any gang activity.
“No, not no more,” Ramirez responded, according to the Department of Justice account. In response to ICE questioning, Ramirez also said he “used to hang out with the Sureños in California,” and that he “fled California to escape from the gangs,” and that he “still hangs out with the Paizas in Washington State.”
“This is false,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lead attorney on Ramirez’s case, in response to the government account.
“Mr. Ramirez did not say these things because they are not true," Rosenbaum said. "While utterly implausible and wholly fabricated, these claims still would not be sufficient evidence that Mr. Ramirez is a threat to the public safety or national security.”
Four days after Ramirez was arrested, ICE released a statement saying he was taken into custody because of his "admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety."
Ramirez's attorneys maintain he has no criminal record. On the day of the arrest, they say Ramirez's father did not give ICE permission to enter or search his home. In court records, Ramirez’s attorneys said agents did not have “any reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime.” And when agents later pressed Ramirez about gang involvement, Ramirez repeatedly denied any affiliation.
The lawsuit claims Ramirez’s detention is unconstitutional and he has been denied due process.
What's next for DACA?
The case has sent a panic through the immigrant community, and for the nearly 730,000 DACA holders who provided personal and biometric data to the government. Elected officials around the country have called on President Trump to provide clarity about his position on the DACA program, which he vowed to end during his campaign.
Speaking to media Thursday, Trump said “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me,” and indicated he wants to address the issue “with heart ... It's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.”
Department of Homeland Security officials describe Ramirez’s arrest as part of a routine enforcement activity. In a statement, DHS said since DACA was created in 2012 “approximately 1,500 recipients have had their deferred action terminated due to a criminal conviction, gang affiliation, or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation.”
That’s less that 0.3 percent of DACA recipients.
Daniel Ramirez is now part of this statistic. Immigration officials say his DACA status has been revoked.
This story was published originally on Feb. 17, 2017.