For the First Time Under President Trump, A DACA Recipient Has Been Arrested and Detained

Last Friday, February 10, for the first time under President Trump, an individual covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”) was taken into custody. Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old with no criminal record who was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was seven years old, filed a challenge to his detention in Seattle the Monday following his arrest, arguing that the government violated his constitutional rights because he had work authorization under the DACA program.

Immigration Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)  spokeswoman Rose Richeson issued an official ICE statement claiming that Daniel Ramirez was a “self-admitted gang member,” alleging that “ICE officers took Mr. Ramirez into custody based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.”

In response, Mark Rosenbaum, one of Daniel Ramirez’s attorneys, strongly refuted the allegation, saying in a statement: “Mr. Ramirez unequivocally denies being in a gang. While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by ICE agents to falsely admit affiliation.”

According to the lawsuit, officers went to Ramirez’s home initially to arrest his father. ICE agents were allowed into the home by Ramirez’s father to notify Ramirez and his brother of the arrest. ICE agents then asked whether Daniel Ramirez was legally in the country, to which he replied, “Yes, I have a work permit,” before declining to answer any further questions. Ramirez has protected status under DACA, which he initially received in 2014 and successfully renewed in 2016. The renewal stated, “Unless terminated, this decision to defer removal action will remain in effect for 2 years from the date of this notice.”

Ramirez’s complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, which was filed on Monday, alleges that Ramirez was asleep at his father’s home in Seattle when agents arrived with an arrest warrant for the father. After declining to answer additional questions concerning his status, ICE agents took Ramirez to a processing center in Seattle. From the complaint:

“When he again informed the ICE agents about his work permit, one of the ICE agents stated: ‘It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.’ At this point, the ICE agents had Mr. Ramirez’s wallet, which contained his work permit, which clearly identified him as a DACA recipient with a “C-33” code, which reflects a work authorization issued pursuant to DACA. Despite this fact, Mr. Ramirez was questioned further, fingerprinted, booked, and taken to a detention center in Tacoma, Washington.”

 The complaint also addresses the seeming failure of a stopgap measure – a 24/7 law enforcement hotline that DACA recipients are instructed to call if they find themselves incorrectly detained by immigration authorities, as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website explains. When Daniel Ramirez’s counsel called the hotline, he was provided no assistance in remedying the mistake that had been made by the arresting ICE agents. Attorneys for Ramirez, whose 3-year-old child is an American citizen, claim his detention without probable cause violates his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

Daniel Ramirez’s arrest comes just three weeks after President Trump signed an order regarding the enforcement of immigration laws inside the country. One section of that order addressed how federal agencies collect and share information about people in the U.S. under the Privacy Act, stating: Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.

 Advocates for DACA recipients say they would be troubled if data collected by the Obama administration through the program could now be used to deport people. To qualify for DACA, recipients must provide the federal government with extensive personal information, as well as an admission of having entered the country illegally, even if that entry was not of their own volition. Immigration activists have consistently expressed concern that this database could be used as a target list by the Trump administration.

Said California State Representative Norma Torres in a statement for The Hill, “Dreamers like Daniel are young people who grew up in this country and represent the striving and ambition at the heart of the American dream. They came out of the shadows, gave their information to the government, and went through background checks, all believing that they would be protected from deportation. Targeting Dreamers is a betrayal of that trust and it is a betrayal of who we are as a country.”

As of Thursday, February 16, Daniel Ramirez is still detained in Tacoma, Washington. In a statement to Seattle local news station KIRO 7, ICE defended its actions, claiming “…there is corroborating evidence supporting this man’s admission related to his gang involvement.” One such piece of evidence, according to ICE’s legal response made public Thursday morning, is a gang tattoo on Daniel Ramirez Medina’s forearm along with claims that Ramirez told an ICE official that he “used to hang out with the Surenos in California,” that he fled from California to escape from gangs and that he “still hangs out with Paizas in Washington State.” Although the ICE brief filed Thursday does not link Ramirez to specific incidents with either gang.

A hearing is set in Federal Court Friday, February 17th.