SEATTLE (AP) — Immigration officials forced by a court order to reinstate a Mexican man’s participation in a program designed to protect those brought to the United States illegally as children are again trying to revoke it.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, 25, drew international attention last year when he was placed in deportation proceedings despite his participation in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He was one of the first people in the program arrested after President Donald Trump took office, despite having committed no crime, and his detention signaled an erosion of protections under the DACA program instituted by President Barack Obama in 2012.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reinstated his DACA status and work permission in response to a February ruling in a federal class-action lawsuit in California. That ruling said that authorities could not strip participants of their protections without giving them a chance to contest the decision.
Another federal court in California has ordered the government to maintain the DACA program; nearly 700,000 people are enrolled nationally.
Early this month, however, the agency notified Ramirez that it intended to revoke his status again. It cited the same rationale it used to detain him before: that he had admitted to having gang ties. His lawyers say the government invented that assertion, and an immigration judge has called it unfounded.
“It’s an incredibly cruel approach to this case,” said one of Ramirez’s lawyers, Ethan Dettmer. “What’s unlawful about it is that they’ve for over a year now had the opportunity to substantiate their claim Daniel’s a gang member. They have not done it.”
Through a spokesman, Jonathan Withington, Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment.
Ramirez came to the U.S. when he was 7. Now the father of a young son who is an American citizen, he has no criminal record — though he was once cited for possessing a small amount of marijuana in Oregon. He twice passed background checks to participate in DACA, providing the government with biometric and other personal information in exchange for being allowed to stay and work in the U.S.
But in February 2017, he was detained when immigration agents showed up at his apartment in suburban Seattle. They were there to arrest his father, a previously deported felon, but they took Ramirez into custody too.
Immigration agents said he acknowledged having gang affiliation and noted a “gang tattoo” on his forearm. Ramirez repeatedly denied having made any such statement — at most, he says, he told them he knew people in the orange fields of California who had been in gangs. According to his lawyers, that’s a far cry from the standard the government would need to prove to strip his status: that he poses an “egregious public safety concern.”
Further, they say, Ramirez’s tattoo — “La Paz BCS” — is merely a tribute to the city of La Paz in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, where he was born.
Ramirez spent six weeks in custody before a judge ordered him released on bail. In January, another immigration judge, Brett Parchert, ordered him deported due to his illegal status, despite finding that he “was not in a gang, nor associated with one.”
Ramirez has appealed Parchert’s decision in immigration court while also challenging his arrest itself in U.S. District Court in Seattle as a violation of his constitutional rights. His lawyers hope to see his status restored to what it was before he was arrested.
Last week, Ramirez’s attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez to expedite his case, given that he only had one month to respond to the government’s latest efforts to revoke his DACA enrollment. The judge said Monday that wouldn’t be necessary, and he scheduled oral arguments for May 1. Ramirez’s current two-year DACA status expires May 4.
Since being released from custody early last year, Ramirez has been splitting his time between Washington state and Lindsay, California.
“I have been spending as much time as I can with my family,” he wrote in a declaration filed in February. “It is an impossible situation for me and my son, and I am trying to be the best father I can be, and trying to provide for him both emotionally and financially. If I am deported I won’t be able to do either of these things.”
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