As it stands, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Barack Obama started in June 2012 is still in effect. The program gives undocumented immigrants, who arrived to the United States at a young age, the right to work and go to school. It also protects them from deportation. So when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 23-year-old Daniel Ramírez Medina on Friday morning, it led to shock and outrage. Ramírez is believed to be the first DACA recipient detained by ICE under Donald Trump’s administration.
ICE arrived at his father’s home in Des Moines, Washington looking to detain the elder Ramírez, who agents had an arrest warrant for. According to CNN, ICE officials allegedly asked Ramírez for proof that he resided in the country legally. He showed them a work permit granted to him through DACA, but officials still arrested him. At a Seattle processing center, he once again explained he had a work permit. An ICE agent then reportedly said, “It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”
Daniel, the father of a 3-year-old, has no criminal record. The government just renewed his DACA status in 2016. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services website clearly stipulates that applicants should have no felony convictions, significant misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors. They also cannot be deemed a threat to nation security or public safety. On Monday, Ramírez filed a challenge against the Department of Homeland Security. His lawyers say that this case is “unprecedented and unjustified.” (Read the lawsuit here.)
However, ICE is trying to paint him in a negative light. In a statement on Tuesday, ICE spokeswoman Rose Richeson said, “Mr. Ramirez – a self-admitted gang member – was encountered at a residence in Des Moines, Washington, during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon. He was arrested February 10 by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to the Northwest Detention Center to await the outcome of removal proceeding before an immigration judge with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.”
Mark Rosenbaum, Daniel’s lawyer, accuses ICE of coercing a confession out of him. “While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation,” Rosenbaum said in a statement, BuzzFeed News reports. “The statement issued tonight by Ms. Richeson of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is inaccurate.”
On top of the lawsuit, Magistrate Judge James Donohue is asking the Department of Homeland Security to explain why it detained Ramírez by Thursday morning. Judge Donohue is also requesting that officials state whether they’ve begun official removal proceedings. “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?”
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to remove up to 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country. He followed that up with two immigration orders, one of which expanded the definition of “criminal alien” to encompass a wider range of undocumented immigrants. Last week, ICE arrested 680 people in raids across the US. 75 percent of them had criminal convictions. Daniel belongs to the 25 percent. His detention – as well as the arrest and deportation of other immigrants who haven’t committed violent crimes or a string of misdemeanors – has led America’s Voice to declare that under a Trump administration, all 11 million undocumented people are targets.
“The facts are in,” the organization said in a press release. “Trump’s Deportation Force is in action. His executive order on interior enforcement eliminated common sense priorities for deportation. This means that any and all undocumented immigrants – including DACA recipients – are vulnerable to arrest, detention, and deportation.”
There’s confusion about whether recent ICE sweeps are a result of Obama’s administration or if they are, in fact, due to Trump’s immigration orders. What seems certain is that the courts will play a role in shaping immigration policy under Trump. Following Trump trying to enact a Muslim ban – which restricted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries but appeared to also affect other groups – he was challenged in court. On Monday, for example, Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive immigration order based on his previous statements urging for a Muslim ban, according to the Washington Post. About a week earlier, a Ninth Circuit appellate court also ruled against Trump’s executive order, stating that his previous statements were pertinent.
If Daniel’s successful, his lawsuit against DHS may keep other DACA recipients from being deported, as the program’s future hangs in the balance.
In the past, Trump has said he’d undo DACA. It’d be as simple as writing a memo. However, the GOP is split on whether or not to end these protections, according to Bloomberg. In an interview with ABC News in January, he said that his administration sought a solution for those with DACA. “They are here illegally,” he said, Reuters reports. “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border.”
In the meantime, the immigrant community is rallying around Daniel, calling on Secretary John Kelly to release him and protesting on his behalf.