Q&A: Both sides in case of man detained by immigration agents

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A federal magistrate in Seattle declined to release a man arrested by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally.

For a report on KIRO 7 News at 5, we hear from lawyers on why the case was referred to another judge and the subsequent protest that disrupted traffic downtown.

Court documents filed by the government allege Ramirez admitted to having gang affiliation, which the government said led to his detainment. Ramirez's lawyers called the allegation false. Read key developments from both sides in the case below and then scroll down for an expanded Q&A at this story. 

Key developments in case:

  • Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, was detained by immigration authorities last week.
  • Immigration officials say they took Ramirez into custody “based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.” 
  • He was taken from his father’s home in Des Moines
  • 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 DACA.
  • Immigration officials said that Ramirez's DACA status can be terminated because of his gang affiliation.
  • Elected leaders in Washington state have made statements against the arrests.
  • Court documents filed on Thursday reports Ramirez had a "gang tattoo" on his forearm, but his lawyers said the agents misidentified it.
  • In a conference call at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, one of Ramirez’s attorneys, Mark Rosenbaum, said the allegations are completely false. 

How was Ramirez detained?

Ramirez was arrested Feb. 10 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration agents found him when they went to an apartment complex in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines to arrest his father, 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 complaint filed by his attorneys says: “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 says that after 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 about his work permit under DACA. But the document says one of the ICE agents replied: “It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”

Ramirez was 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.

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

Ramirez is in custody in Tacoma.

What is DACA?

Ramirez's arrest last week has thrust him into a national debate over the immigration priorities of President Donald Trump. Some saw the detention as the opening salvo in an attack on former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, while federal authorities suggested that it was simply a routine exercise of their authority.

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.

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. It allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.

About 1,500 immigrants who have been granted DACA status since 2012 have had it revoked because of criminal convictions or gang affiliations.

Ramirez’s lawyers 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.

What has the government said about Ramirez? 

Court documents filed by the government Thursday said Ramirez admitted to having gang ties when he was questioned by an immigration agent.

Ramirez was questioned Feb. 10 about his alleged gang activity after being taken to an ICE holding facility in Tukwila. That was after ICE officers said Ramirez and his father told officers that Ramirez is here illegally. ICE's brief said Ramirez also told an officer that he was previously arrested, though it's not clear for which case.

The government's filing confirmed that Ramirez has no criminal record. 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.

What is Ramirez’s alleged gang affiliation?

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. 

Photos of Ramirez's tattoo in the federal court file are redacted.

Ramirez's attorney claims the tattoo was misidentified. His attorney said the tattoo says "La Paz BCS," referring to the term "peace" in Spanish and Baja California Sur, where Ramirez's attorney said he was born. 

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

What are the Surenos? What are the Piazas?

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.

What do the attorneys say?

Ramirez's attorney, Mark Rosenbaum, told reporters in a conference call Thursday that he believes the government is trying to cover up mistakes made by immigration agents, calling his client's arrest a "bogus operation."

>> Related: Attorney for detainee says ICE reports have been doctored

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

“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," 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."

As written in the section above, attorney claims his tattoo was misidentified. Lawyers said the tattoo says "La Paz BCS," referring to the term "peace" in Spanish and Baja California Sur, where Ramirez's attorney said he was born.

Rosenbaum and his team released a photo of a form that they said was tampered with, to make it appear as if Ramirez admitted gang affiliation.

They said Ramirez filled out a form in pencil on Feb. 10 when he was admitted to the Tacoma detention facility, requesting to not be classified with the prison gang members, because he isn’t in a gang. In the denial response returned Feb. 15, 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…”

On Friday, Ramirez's attorneys released video that shows his arrest. 

What happened in Friday’s court hearing? 

In documents filed Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department said there is "no legal basis for a district court to consider any challenge" to the detention of Ramirez because his case is pending in immigration court.

But Ramierz's attorney still asked a federal judge to release him on Friday. A federal magistrate declined the release. 

Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue said Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle that Ramirez must request a bond a hearing from a federal immigration judge and should get one within a week.

“We will continue to fight for Daniel’s immediate release as long as the government continues its unjustified and unlawful detention. We appreciate the Court’s directive that Mr. Ramirez be granted a timely bond hearing in immigration court, which will allow us another opportunity to request his release," Rosenbaum said. 

How Seattle has reacted? 

Elected leaders, including Seattle’s mayor and Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell, made statements against the arrest by immigration officials of Daniel Ramirez Medina.

Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant organized the rally called “Free Daniel.” Around 200 people attended the rally.  

Hundreds attended the event and then marched through the streets of Seattle near the convention center. They blocked an intersection near the convention center and then continued their march toward South Lake . 

What did marchers say on Friday? 

Hundreds who marched through downtown Seattle chanted "Free Daniel now!" 
 
"I think they're trying to stop Trump, what he is doing," said Farhiya Bedel, a Somali immigrant. "The building of the wall he is doing all of that stuff."
 
The spontaneous march stopped in the middle of Sixth Avenue at Union Street, causing headaches for late morning drivers.
 
"I know their idea," said driver James Chung. "But it's blocking the traffic that's terrible."