It has been five days since the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency detained Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant who is protected from deportation under an initiative authorized by the Obama administration.
ICE officials detained Ramirez Medina on the morning of Friday, February 10 in Seattle, Washington after they came to his home to find his father who has an arrest warrant for a previous deportation. They arrested the father, but came back into the house again to arrest Ramirez Medina. Twice, he told agents that he was in the country legally and that he had a work permit. According to a lawsuit filed by Ramirez Medina’s lawyers, an agent reportedly responded, “It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”
The lawsuit explained that Ramirez Medina told agents that he was shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which has granted temporary deportation relief and work authorization for 752,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Under DACA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers are told to show leniency and exercise prosecutorial discretion to “ensure that enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases, such as individuals who came to the United States as children and meet other key guidelines.”
Ramirez Medina was processed in Seattle and sent to a detention center in Tacoma, Washington where he remains.
Ramirez Medina’s lawyers argued in the lawsuit that there was no reason for his arrest and that his detention “violates his reasonable expectations based on the DACA program, and violates his rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
Rose Richeson, an ICE spokesperson, said that he was a “self-admitted gang member,” a charge that Mark Rosenbaum, Ramirez Medina’s counsel, has denied.
“While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation,” Rosenbaum said. “The statement issued tonight by Ms. Richeson of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is inaccurate.”
His counsel argued that he was approved for the DACA initiative twice, meaning that the Department of Homeland Security has twice determined, after performing background checks, that he didn’t pose any threat to national security or public safety.
Judge James Donohue, a federal magistrate judge, asked the DHS agency to justify Ramirez Medina’s arrest in an order filed on Tuesday.
“If petitioner is still detained and removal proceedings have not been initiated against him, what is the basis for ICE’s authority to detain him?” Donohue asked. “What limitations are there, if any, on the Court’s ability to hold a detention hearing for petitioner before the merits of his habeas petition have been decided?”
To be clear, President Donald Trump has not signed any notice or order to end DACA. But he has repeatedly vowed to discontinue the program which began under his predecessor, though his spokesperson said that ending it was not a priority.
This also isn’t the Trump administration’s first litmus test to see how far they can push the limits of current immigration law, a tactic that has already spread chaos and fear among vulnerable communities. On the heels of Trump’s executive order barring entry to people from seven majority-Muslim countries, government airport officials declined to allow entry for green card holders and refugees. People with legitimate reasons to be in the United States were held for hours or even forced to go to other countries. The move has since prompted 40 pending lawsuits around the country, with judges rejecting his executive order on the basis that it violates the Constitution.
Ramirez Medina’s detention could receive a response from Obama, who promised to speak out on behalf of DACA recipients if they ever became the target of the Trump administration.
“The notion that we would just arbitrarily or because of politics punish those kids, when they didn’t do something themselves … would merit my speaking out,” Obama said last month.
Under the Obama administration, agents were asked to pursue high-priority targets like gang members, murderers, and other people who commit serious crimes. Agents were urged to exercise caution when detaining immigrants with U.S. citizen children, family members of military personnel, and people who otherwise have longstanding ties to their communities.