Dozens protest outside detention center over the arrest of 'dreamer'
TACOMA, Wash. - Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma Wednesday night to protest the arrest of Daniel Ramirez Medina and demand his release.
The 23-year-old Mexican man was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last Friday at his father's house in Des Moines and now faces the possibility of deportation, despite his participation in a program to protect those who arrived in the U.S. illegally.
The arrest thrust Ramirez into a national debate over the immigration priorities of President Donald Trump.
“I'm an undocumented student. I was born in Mexico,” said protester Cynthia Illan-Vazquez. “I just want to be here in solidarity with Daniel.”
Some saw the detention as the opening salvo in an attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, while federal authorities suggested it was simply a routine exercise of their authority.
ICE agents initially came to the house because they had a warrant Ramirez's father. Instead, they found Ramirez-Medina and insist he confessed to being a gang member. But, Ramirez' lawyers adamantly deny that, saying he has no criminal record and is the father of a 3-year-old son who is an American citizen.
“I said put aside this alleged confession, do you have any independent corroborating evidence that Daniel had any involvement with a gang? He said to me we're not aware of anything. Daniel said he was pressured,” said Defense Attorney Mark Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum said Ramirez-Medina is protected from deportation under an Obama-era DACA program, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, to gain obtain permits.
The DACA program - referred to as "Dreamers" by supporters and derided as "illegal amnesty" by critics - has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012.
The Mexican consul spoke to Ramirez on Wednesday and said he's hopeful.
“He's looking forward to the process that going forward. And especially looking forward especially to walk out of the detention soon,” said Dr. Roberto Dondisch, Consul of Mexico.
About 1,500 immigrants granted DACA status since 2012 have had it revoked because of criminal convictions or gang affiliations.
The detention of Ramirez comes as the immigrant community is increasingly uneasy about Trump's promises to boost enforcement. In Colorado a Mexican woman trying to avoid deportation took refuge in a Denver church Wednesday after U.S. immigration authorities denied her request to remain in the country
Trump made illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, saying he will build a wall along the Mexican border and deport millions of people, although actual plans have yet to be revealed. But he has also said he wants to focus on people who have committed crimes.
During an interview with Time magazine late last year, Trump expressed sympathy for those in the DACA program.
"We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," he told the magazine.
The program is considered an exercise in prosecutorial discretion by the Department of Homeland Security, which warns on its website that "deferred action may be terminated at any time."
But Ramirez's legal team argued in a petition to U.S. District Court in Seattle seeking his release that the government's discretion is limited to the rules governing the DACA program. Ramirez's arrest violated his constitutional right to due process and to be free from unlawful seizure, the lawyers argued.
Lawyers for Ramirez said they knew little about him except that he came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 7 and that he twice passed background checks for participation in the program, most recently for a two-year renewal issued last May.
A spokeswoman for Ramirez' lawyers, Lara Bergthold, said Ramirez had previously worked as a farmworker in California before moving to Washington state in hopes of finding a better job.
Bergthold declined to say where in Mexico he came from or provide further information about his family, citing privacy concerns.