US immigration policy

Judge releases ‘dreamer’ arrested in Seattle on illegal immigration charge

In decision that could set precedent, Daniel Ramírez Medina can await deportation decision in liberty

A US immigration court on Wednesday ordered the release of Daniel Ramírez Medina, a 23-year-old Mexican citizen who was arrested by US immigration officials in Seattle in mid-February, despite having no criminal record and enjoying legal protection under former US president Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

A woman protests on behalf of Daniel Ramírez in Seattle.
A woman protests on behalf of Daniel Ramírez in Seattle.AP

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Ramírez will now be able to await a final decision on his deportation in liberty on payment of bail of $15,000, his lawyers said after the 40-minute hearing.

The arrest of the 23-year-old Mexican on February 10 made international headlines as he was the first beneficiary of the DACA program without a criminal record to be detained. Under the program, people who were brought into the United States illegally as children are entitled to study and work, provided certain requirements are met. These beneficiaries – some 700,000 in total – are often referred to as “dreamers.”

The arrest made international headlines as he was the first DACA beneficiary without a criminal record to be detained

Ramírez was detained when US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers entered his house searching for his father. The agency says they found the young man in bed and asked if he was a US citizen. He told them that he had a work visa but was arrested anyway. Later, ICE argued in court that Ramírez had admitted he belonged to a gang and that his tattoos were evidence of this. But Ramírez has denied both allegations.

The unusual status of Ramírez as the first dreamer without a criminal record to be taken into custody led a group of lawyers to petition a federal judge to throw out the case against him and release him from detention. That judge refused to hear the matter and ruled that an immigration court should make a decision on Ramírez’s possible release.

On Wednesday, the immigration court ordered the immigrant’s release, marking an important partial victory of his defense team. Deportation proceedings will now continue.

Daniel Ramirez Medina.
Daniel Ramirez Medina.AP

The case of Daniel Ramírez Medina became public several days after US president Donald Trump signed an executive order coming down hard on illegal immigration and allocating resources to deportation procedures. Under Obama – who deported more immigrants than any previous US president – the focus was on the detention of violent criminals while families without legal problems were, for the most part, left in peace.

Trump has never been clear about what he plans to do with the hundreds of thousands of young people protected under the DACA program. On occasions, he has stated that they will have to leave the country while at other times he has said a solution will have to be found for them.

The situation these young people find themselves in is particularly delicate because they have given over all of their personal information to the federal government in order to enjoy protection under DACA.

The arrest of Ramírez, someone without a criminal record, has created great uncertainty for fellow dreamers and their families.

English version by George Mills.

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