By Jasmine Kozak Gilroy
On February 10 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested and detained 23 year old Daniel Ramirez Medina, an immigrant and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who has been living in the United States since he was seven years old. Ramirez Medina was first taken to a processing center in Tukwila, Washington, and then moved to the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), a private immigration prison located in Tacoma, where he has been held ever since. Ramirez Medina and his lawyers maintain that his arrest and detainment were unlawful and unjustified and have filled two separate appeals for his release, both of which have been denied.
DACA, an executive action initiated under the Obama administration, allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply for grants of deferred action from deportation or other related legal action, which also allows them to work legally in the U.S. DACA does not provide legal status nor a pathway to legal status, and there are very specific guidelines regarding who is eligible for DACA. In order to be eligible, an applicant must have come to the United States before they turned 16, have lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years since that time, and have graduated from highschool, are currently in high school, or obtained their General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces, and must not have any felony convictions. Ramirez Medina had gotten his DACA status renewed for the second time in May of 2016, theoretically keeping him safe from deportation until May of 2018. In a public statement, ICE stated that they are detaining Ramirez Medina despite his DACA status due to his “admitted gang affiliations and risk to public safety”, calling him “a self admitted gang member”. Ramirez Medina and his lawyers aledge that these claims have been falsified.
Court documents recount that Daniel Ramirez Medina, asleep on his father’s couch, was awoken on the morning of February 10 to ICE officers entering his home. His father had been arrested on the sidewalk outside of his home, returning from dropping Ramirez Medina’s stepbrother off at school. They came to the residence with a warrant for Ramirez Medina’s father’s arrest, alleging that his father is a felon who was previously deported from the country. His father allowed ICE agents to enter the home so that he could inform his son’s of his arrest. The ICE agents entered the residence and proceeded to interview Ramirez Medina and his brother. By his own account, Ramirez Medina told the officers “at least five times” that he had a work permit. He recounted that they did not ask him any questions about gang involvement, and also recalls asking them for a warrant, which he says they did not show him. His brother, also a DACA recipient, was not detained.
Ramirez Medina was arrested and taken to a processing center in Tukwila, Washington where he was questioned by officers. In his personal declaration, available to the public as a part of his case for release, he recounts that, “I told the agent again that I have employment authorization, but the agent said that it did not matter because I was not from the United States.” He describes the two immigration officers who questioned him as being very focused on gang involvement, persisting with this line of questioning as he continued to tell them he was not and had never been involved with gangs or gang related activity, stating, “They would not stop. It felt like forever. I felt an intense amount of pressure, like if I did not give them something, they would not stop. So, I told them I did nothing more than hang out with a few people who may have been Soreños, but that since I became an adult I have not spoken with any of those people.”
A photograph of the handwritten statement being used to support the claim that Ramirez Medina has self identified as a gang member is available online. The statement, signed by Ramirez Medina and dated the day of his arrest, appears to begin halfway through the first provided line, reading, “I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear a orange uniform. I do not have a criminal history and I am not affiliated with any gangs.” Upon closer examination, the statement actually seems to start at the beginning of the provided space, and looks as if it was attempted to erase part of the statement. The complete statement still clearly reads, “I came in and the officer said I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear a orange uniform. I do not have a criminal history and I am not affiliated with any gangs.”
Ramirez Medina was denied his first request for release on Feb. 17. In their denial, the court claimed it was not within their jurisdiction, requesting that a bond hearing be held in immigration court.
On Feb. 27 a federal judge once again denied Ramirez Medina his request for an emergency motion for his conditional release. In the request, his lawyers aledge that it the case does in fact fall under the court’s jurisdiction. Citing the importance of a swift trial, Ramirez Medina’s lawyers declared, “Given the critical factual and legal issues to be determined—and their importance both to Mr. Ramirez’s liberty and the status and well-being of hundreds of thousands of other DACA holders and their families, this Court should determine these matters in the first instance.”
As of Feb. 27 Ramirez Medina remains detained at the NWDC. His case, which the judge has put on an expedited briefing schedule will take place in the next two weeks, with oral arguments to commence on March 8. His arrest despite his protected status and following long term detainment is the first reported incident of its kind and shaping up to be a landmark case in the rights of dreamers nationwide under the Trump administration. When DACA was initiated in 2012, it was estimated that 1.7 million people within the United States would be eligible for protections. The fate of Daniel Ramirez Medina, whether he is released, deported, or continues to be detained, may determine the fate of those almost two million dreamers as well.