Feds explain alleged gang affiliation in Daniel Ramirez-Medina case; attorney rejects it

by: Casey McNerthney Updated:

UPDATE: Daniel Ramirez has a gang tattoo on his forearm and told an Immigration and Customs Enforcement he "used to hang out with the Surenos in California," that he fled California to escape from gangs, and that he "still hangs out with the Paizas in Washington State," according to ICE's legal response made public Thursday morning.

His attorney said in a written statement that the government's claims "are unequivocally false and irresponsible."

Ramirez is at the center of a national story regarding immigration. He was brought to the United States as a child and his attorneys said he should not be deported because of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. Several elected leaders have spoken out about the actions against him.

Immigration officials said that Ramirez's DACA status can be terminated because of his gang affiliation. 

“The Department of Justice alleges that while in custody, Mr. Ramirez acknowledged that he ‘used to hang out with’ and ‘still hangs out with’ members of two gangs," attorney Mark Rosenbaum said. "This is false. Mr. Ramirez did not say these things because they are not true. 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."

Photos of Ramirez's tattoo in the federal court file is redacted. His attorney said the tattoo says "La Paz BCS," referring to the term "peace" in Spanish and Baja California Sur, the place where Ramirez's attorney said he was born. 

Follow this link to see documents from ICE regarding Ramirez's case.


Key developments:

- Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, was detained by immigration authorities on Friday.

- Immigration officials say they took Ramirez into custody “based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.” 

Follow this link to read the brief on Ramirez from the Department of Homeland Security.

- Follow this link to read the petition filed by Ramirez attorneys.

- Ramirez was brought to the United States when he was 7 years old and was approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA is an immigration policy started by the Obama administration in 2012 that allowed immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to avoid deportation.

- Elected leaders in Washington state have made statements against the arrests

- KIRO 7 is working to obtain the photographs and additional details connected with the Homeland Security legal brief about Ramirez's alleged gang connection and will update this story when those are available.


Ramirez was questioned about his alleged gang activity Friday after being taken to an ICE holding facility in Tukwila. That was after ICE officers said Ramirez and his father allegedly told officers that Ramirez is here illegally. ICE's brief said Ramirez also told an officer he was previously arrested, though it's not clear for which case.

The Surenos, also known as the Sur 13, is a term for affiliated gangs that started in California. The term was first used in the 1970s as a result of a California prison war between the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Famila and the war resulted in territorial division between northern and southern California gang members, according to the Samson County Sheriff’s Office.

The Paizas, also referred to as the Paisas, is a gang that has been linked to Washington and at least seven other states by the FBI, which also says the gang has ties to incarcerated gang members. News reports also link the gang to prison violence.

The ICE brief filed Thursday does not link Ramirez to specific incidents with either gang.  

“DACA is a difficult subject for me,” President Donald Trump said Thursday. “You have these incredible kids and gang members and the drug members, but you have some incredible kids, they were brought here in such a way --- we are going to deal with DACA with heart … The DACA situation is a difficult thing for me. I love kids.”

ICE officials list his age as 23, though in the traffic ticket case referenced by ICE documents and Ramirez's attorney another age is listed.

ORIGINAL TEXT: After elected leaders, including Seattle’s mayor and Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell, made statements against the arrest by immigration officials of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a key question remains.

What exactly are his alleged gang ties?

Ramirez, 23, was taken into custody "based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety” a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. But his attorneys dispute that claim.

Ramirez’s only court record in Washington is a deferred traffic ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit last year in Thurston County. That ticket was deferred after he paid a $150 fine.

But additional details about Ramirez's alleged gang affiliation are expected to come Thursday morning. ICE staff said in a statement that his case "illustrates the work ICE fugitive operations teams perform every day across the country to remove public safety threats from our communities."

The outrage from elected leaders comes because Ramirez was brought to the United States when he was 7 years old and was approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA is an immigration policy started by the Obama administration in 2012 that allowed immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to avoid deportation in renewable two-year periods if the enroll.

ICE staff said that since 2012, about 1,500 DACA recipients had their status terminated because of a criminal conviction, gang affiliation, or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation. 

The only court documents filed as of Wednesday afternoon are a complaint by attorneys representing Ramirez.

The response that outlines ICE’s evidence against Ramirez is expected to be filed by 9 a.m. Thursday.

Attorneys question allegations

ICE's Wednesday statement said that "aliens granted deferred action from deportation who are subsequently found to pose a threat to national security or public safety may have their deferred action terminated at any time and [the Department of Homeland Security] may seek their removal from the United States."

The statement said Ramirez is a gang member found "during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon."

Des Moines police had no contact with Ramirez, and the department also did not have contact at the location where Ramirez was detained.

Local police agencies have a criteria they use to classify someone as a gang member. Follow this link to see the 13 criteria, sent to KIRO 7 by police.  

The gang criteria list was developed by local law officers and prosecutors. To make an arrest, they need to confirm at least three out the 13 criteria, and that can potentially earn enhancements -- special designations that bring longer sentences -- during the court process.
 
If a suspect simply admitted to being a gang member, prosecutors would say that’s not enough for enhancements, according to police.
 
“Mr. Ramirez -- a self-admitted gang member -- was encountered at a residence in Des Moines, Washington, during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Rose Richeson said in a statement Tuesday night.
 
Rep. Pramila Jayapal demanded Ramirez's immediate release.
 
She said President Trump "is tearing apart families and striking fear into immigrant communities." Jayapal called for Trump to have Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to immediately "right this wrong – instead of putting his stamp of approval on deporting innocent young people who were brought here through no fault of their own, followed all the laws in signing up for DACA, and have not lived in the country they are being sent back to." 
 
While the immigration spokeswoman calls Ramirez a self-admitted gang member and a risk to public safety, Jayapal said "Daniel belongs in our community and must be released immediately to his family." Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant also called for a 9 a.m. rally to free Ramirez.
 
Mark Rosenbaum, one of Ramirez's lawyers, told reporters that Ramirez "unequivocally denies being in a gang" and that the statement from Richeson is inaccurate.
 
"While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation," Rosenbaum told The Associated Press.
 
It was not immediately clear how long Ramirez was in Washington and if his alleged gang activity was from another state.
 
"It appears that the promise that DACA represented, that individuals would be permitted to work in this country, uh, and pursue their lives if they entered as children, was violated and this was the first time that we learned of any DACA beneficiary being picked up by immigration,” said Rosenbaum. “They said to Daniel, ‘Tell us where you were born, your name and birthplace.’ Had no basis to ask those questions, other than him being Latino, they asked, he answered, told them he had a permit and they brought him down to the processing place in Seattle.”
 
Attorneys file complaint

Ramirez was arrested Feb. 10 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to the Northwest Detention Center to await the outcome of removal proceedings before an immigration judge with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, said Richeson, the ICE spokeswoman.

Ramirez is in custody in Tacoma. The complaint his attorneys filed is against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and the director of the Seattle field office of U.S. immigration and custom enforcement, Nathalie Asher.

According to the complaint, Ramirez is the father of a U.S. citizen, who has twice been granted deferred action and an employment authorization card under DACA. The complaint shows a copy of his latest DACA renewal, from May 5, 2016, which shows it is in effect for two years following that date.

The complaint states that Ramirez was twice granted DACA status and therefore determined to pose no threat to national security or public safety.

Immigration official responds

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said he was a risk as a self-admitted gang member when he was detained. 

The complaint filed by his attorneys states: “Nevertheless, Mr. Ramirez was taken into custody by several ICE agents at or around 9 a.m. PST on Friday, February, 10, 2017. Mr. Ramirez was asleep at his father’s home in Seattle, Washington when the agents arrived and arrested Mr. Ramirez’s father. The agents had an arrest warrant for Mr. Ramirez’s father.”

The complaint continues to state that following his arrest, Ramirez’s father granted ICE officers permission to enter his home so he could inform his two sons about his arrest. When ICE agents entered, they questioned Ramirez about his legal status, then took him to a processing center in Seattle.

Ramirez informed the officers of his work permit under DACA. But the document states one of the ICE agents replied, “It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”

Despite the fact that his attorneys said Ramirez had his DACA identification with him the time, he was questioned further, fingerprinted, booked and taken to the Tacoma detention center.

The DACA program, which began in 2012, defers removal action against an individual for a certain period of time, covering certain people who were brought to the U.S. at a young age. In order to apply, individuals had to provide the government with personal information, pay a fee, and submit to a background check.

KIRO 7 reporters Natasha Chen and Amy Clancy contributed to this report.