SEATTLE -- Lawyers are asking a federal court in Seattle to order the immediate release of a man detained by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally. But the U.S. Justice Department says the court has no authority over the case.
In documents filed Thursday, the department said there is “no legal basis for a district court to consider any challenge” to the detention of Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, in part because his case is pending in immigration court.
A federal magistrate scheduled a status conference on Ramirez’s case for Friday morning.
Ramirez’s arrest last week has thrust him into a national debate over the immigration priorities of President Trump. Some saw the detention as the opening salvo in an attack on former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA program - referred to as “Dreamers” by supporters and derided as “illegal amnesty” by critics) program, while federal authorities suggested it was simply a routine exercise of their authority.
Court documents filed by the government Thursday said Ramirez admitted to having gang ties when questioned by an immigration agent. His lawyers called the allegation false.
“Mr. Ramirez did not say these things because they are not true,” Mark Rosenbaum said in statement. “And while utterly implausible and wholly fabricated, these claims still would not be sufficient evidence that Mr. Ramirez is a threat to the public safety or national security.”
CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV reports Ramirez filled out a form in pencil on Feb. 10 when he was admitted to a Tacoma, Washington detention facility, requesting that he not be grouped with prison gang members because he isn’t in a gang. In the denial response form returned Feb. 15, says KIRO, there are eraser marks, deleting the words “I came in and the officer said.” Instead, the visible section shows only what followed those words: “I have gang affiliation…”
Rosenbaum told KIRO it is “one of the most serious examples of governmental misconduct I have come across in over 40 years of practice.”
The court documents also said Ramirez had a “gang tattoo” on his forearm, but Rosenbaum said the agents misidentified it. He said it reads “La Paz BCS.” La Paz means “Peace” in Spanish and is also the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, where Ramirez was born, he said.
Ramirez is father of a 3-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen, his lawyers have said. He worked on farms picking fruit in California before moving to Washington, and he twice passed background checks to participate in the DACA program - most recently last spring, they said.
The government’s filing confirmed that Ramirez has no criminal record.
Rosenbaum told reporters on a conference call Thursday he believes the government is trying to cover up mistakes made by immigration agents, calling his client’s arrest a “bogus operation.”
Ramirez’s attorneys say the documents fail to show even one piece of evidence that Ramirez is affiliated with any gang.
Immigration agents found him last Friday when they went to an apartment complex in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines to arrest his father, identified as Antonio Ramirez-Polendo. Ramirez-Polendo was deported eight times between 2000 and 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday, and served a year in prison in Washington state for felony drug trafficking.
The DACA program has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012. It allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Ramirez was being held at a detention center in Tacoma pending deportation proceedings. The statement said participants can have their status revoked if they’re found to pose a threat to national security or public safety.
About 1,500 immigrants granted DACA status since 2012 have had it revoked have had it revoked because of criminal convictions or gang affiliations.