A 24-year-old undocumented immigrant protected under President Obama’s deportation relief program has been released, six weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained him during an enforcement operation near Seattle, Washington.
Daniel Ramirez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiary, hugged his brother after his release on Wednesday outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Ramirez said in a public statement that he was thrilled to go home and thanked his supporters.
“I’m so happy to be reunited with my family today and can’t wait to see my son. This has been a long and hard 46 days, but I’m so thankful for the support that I’ve gotten from everyone who helped me and for the opportunity to live in such an amazing country,” Ramirez said. “I know that this isn’t over, but I’m hopeful for the future, for me and for the hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers who love this country like I do.”
Immigration Judge John Odell granted Ramirez’s release on a $15,000 bail bond until his next court hearing. During the 40-minute hearing, Ramirez spoke about being a “hardworking young father” to a three-year-old U.S.-citizen, according to a statement sent by his lawyers.
“Today the judge affirmed that Daniel does not pose any risk to public safety,” Luis Cortes, one of Ramirez’s legal team, said after the judge ordered his release. “We are thrilled he will soon be home with his family.”
ICE agents detained Ramirez at his Seattle-area home in early February after showing up with an arrest warrant for his undocumented father. Ramirez reportedly told ICE agents who detained him that he was protected under the DACA initiative, according to a complaint, but agents told him at the time, “it doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”
ICE agents terminated Ramirez’s DACA status, alleging that he had identified as a gang member because of his arm tattoos. Those tattoos, “La Paz BCS,” means “peace” in the Spanish language and Baja California Sur, where Ramirez said he was born. He was brought to the country as a child from Mexico by his parents.
Ramirez’s lawyers said that the government’s claim was “unequivocally false and irresponsible” because parts of his written testimony appeared to be altered to make it look like he was affiliated with a gang.
Ramirez was held in detention for 45 days and spent his 24th birthday at the Tacoma-based detention facility. During that time, his pro bono attorneys from Public Counsel and other groups challenged his detention, alarmed that his protected status should have made him a lower enforcement priority for arrest and deportation. The U.S. government had twice approved Ramirez for the DACA initiative — both times he would have had to swear under penalty of perjury that he did not have any gang affiliation.
Ramirez’s case has been one of several high-profile arrests of DACA recipients that have left immigrant advocates with more questions than answers about the status of the DACA initiative. President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to roll back Obama-era executive actions, including DACA, but he has also said that he has a soft spot for immigrants brought to the country as young children. In mid-March, Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old DACA recipient, was similarly detained and later released after she said she was targeted by ICE agents for speaking out against the agency at a news conference.