U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested and detained a 'Dreamer,' or an undocumented immigrant brought to the U.S. as a young child and given permission to live and work legally in the country, stunning civil rights defenders nationwide and provoking fierce local opposition.
While President Donald Trump has issued a draconian anti-immigrant executive order that appears to have set in motion a sharp increase in ICE raids nationwide, the arrest of Daniel Ramirez Medina in Seattle last week marks the first detention of an immigrant allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program since Trump took office.
"Arresting a young DACA recipient with deep roots in our country is not only cruel and outrageous but an affront to our core principles and democratic values," said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU—"one of the largest unions representing immigrant workers in the country"—in a statement. "Daniel Ramirez should be brought back where he belongs; with his family and his community in Seattle."
Seattle is also a sanctuary city, meaning local law enforcement will not arrest and detain immigrants on behalf of ICE. Sanctuary cities have been sharply targeted by the Trump administration, which has threatened to pull their federal funding.
Immigration and civil rights lawyers immediately filed a petition in federal court for Ramirez Medina's release. A magistrate judge in Seattle issued an order requiring the federal government to respond to the suit by Thursday, and scheduled a hearing on Friday.
Immigrant rights groups, politicians, union representatives, and local community members are also demanding his release, and people nationwide are voicing their outrage on social media under the hashtag #FreeDaniel. A petition calling for Ramirez Medina's release has already received nearly 10,000 signatures.
"President Trump's deportation force has struck our community and taken one of our own. It's unconscionable that Daniel, who trusted the government and registered under DACA, was picked up and sent to a detention center," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in a statement.
Ramirez Medina, 23, is a father and has a work permit issued by the Department of Homeland Security. He has no criminal record. (Possession of a criminal record precludes a work permit under DACA.) These facts have not stopped ICE from claiming that Ramirez Medina a "gang member," an allegation that his lawyers and local civil rights advocates vehemently deny.
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The Seattle Times reports that "Medina's attorney, Mark Rosenbaum, said his client 'unequivocally denies being in a gang' and said 'he was repeatedly pressured' by ICE to 'falsely admit affiliation.'" Rosenbaum characterized ICE's statement to the contrary as "inaccurate."
Rosenbaum also "accused the federal government of a 'bait and switch,' by having people register for the DACA program and then trying to deport them," writes the Seattle Times.
"We are hoping this detention was a mistake," another one of Ramirez Medina's lawyers told the Guardian.
"It's clear that these inhumane raids are anything but routine," said Jayapal. "The president is tearing apart families and striking fear into immigrant communities. People no longer feel safe in their own homes."
Also on Tuesday, ICE acting director Thomas Homan dodged a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss last week's raids, prompting accusations that the agency is "ducking accountability," as Common Dreams reported.
Ramirez Medina's community continues to rally around him. "Seattle stands in with Daniel and we will not back down until he is free," Jayapal declared.