SEATTLE - A Mexican man who was arrested despite his participation in a program designed to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally as children can be released from custody pending his deportation proceedings, an immigration judge ruled Tuesday.
Luis Cortes, one of the attorneys representing Daniel Ramirez Medina, told KIRO 7 that the 24-year-old will likely be released Wednesday after posting a $15,000 bond.
Cortes said that Tuesday’s hearing was the first time Ramirez was allowed to speak in court. Cortes said Ramirez answered questions about alleged gang affiliations.
Key developments in case:
- Daniel Ramirez Medina, 24, was detained by immigration authorities weeks ago.
- 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 President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
- Immigration officials said that Ramirez's DACA status can be terminated because of his gang affiliation.
- Court documents filed in earlier in March reports Ramirez had a "gang tattoo" on his forearm, but his lawyers said the agents misidentified it.
- A federal magistrate in Seattle declined to release Ramirez last month.
After reiterating that he is not part of a gang, Judge John Odell determined Ramirez would not be a flight risk and is not a risk to public safety.
“The government tried to find any element of wrongdoing, and they couldn’t find it,” Cortes said.
Immigration agents arrested Ramirez on Feb. 10 at a Des Moines apartment complex where they had gone to arrest his father, a previously deported felon. Agents said Ramirez, who came to the U.S. at age 7, acknowledged affiliating with gangs. He adamantly denies any gang ties or making any such admission.
On Tuesday, Ramirez’s attorney said he denied this again in court, saying he only knew people at his high school in California who were gang members. He has had no relationship with them since.
When Ramirez was granted a bond, Cortes said, “He just couldn’t stop smiling. I’m going to get to see my son again. That’s one of the first things he said. I’m going to get to see my son again. I’m so excited. He was very happy.”
Ramirez has no criminal record, except for a speeding ticket, and twice passed background checks to participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country and work.
A federal judge in Seattle last week upheld a decision not to release Ramirez, saying he instead should challenge his detention in immigration court. U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said "many questions remain regarding the appropriateness of the government's conduct" in arresting him.
Among those questions, his lawyers have said, are whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents misinterpreted a tattoo on his forearm when they described it as a "gang tattoo" in an arrest report. The lawyers say the tattoo, which says "La Paz BCS," pays homage to the city of La Paz in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, where he was born.
Ramirez's case is one of several recent arrests that have left immigration activists fearing an erosion of protections under the DACA program instituted by President Barack Obama in 2012.
ICE agents in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday arrested Francisco J. Rodriguez Dominguez, a DACA participant who was brought to the U.S. from Morelia, in Mexico's Michoacan state, at age 5. Last December, he entered a diversion program following a drunken driving arrest and had attended all his court dates and required meetings, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said in a statement.
The agency said Monday that it targeted Rodriguez Dominguez because of the DUI and that he would be released on bond pending deportation proceedings.
Ramirez's lawyers had sought to keep his case out of federal immigration court, which they said is ill-equipped to handle his claims that his arrest violated his constitutional rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable seizure.
The immigration judge set his bond at $15,000, which his lawyers say will be posted.
About 750,000 immigrants have enrolled in the DACA program since it began.
The Associated Press and KIRO 7 contributed to this report.
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