Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

DACA Recipient Goes to Court. The Fate of Many is Tied to the Outcome.

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

When ICE agents came to Daniel Ramirez Medina’s home and arrested his father, the 23-year-old DACA recipient came face to face with agents who asked him point blank, “Are you legally here?”

“Yes, I have a work permit,” Daniel replied.

Daniel, the father of a 3-year-old American citizen, has received DACA twice. This means he has twice passed extensive background checks.

Following the advice of his brother (another DACA recipient who was also present and was not detained), Daniel declined to answer the ICE agents’ additional questions at that time.

In spite of all this, Daniel Ramirez Medina was taken from his Seattle-area home to a processing center in Tacoma, Washington. He has since been detained for over a month and accused of gang affiliation.

Daniel was the first known case of a DACA recipient detained under the Trump administration. However, he has not being forgotten. His legal team filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, for arresting him without probable cause, violating his Fourth Amendment rights.

ICE is basing Daniel’s detention on very tenuous evidence, citing a tattoo that, according to them, ties him to gang activity. However, media have posted pictures of the tattoo, and it does not seem to be related to gang membership. It contains the letters of Daniel’s place of birth: La Paz, Baja California Sur, along with a star.

The lawsuit filed by Daniel’s lawyers has implications beyond his case.

Chief Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue denied Daniel’s release but agreed to hear his case in federal court (not in immigration court) and has scheduled a hearing for Friday, March 17.

So the issue shifted from a question of “Will Daniel be deported?” to “Have Daniel’s constitutional rights been violated?” This could possibly set a precedent that may affect close to 750,000 young immigrants who are DACA beneficiaries.

The judge’s ruling “could result in a determination that although DACA establishes a basis for lawful presence in the United States, it does not create a constitutionally protected liberty interest, and the actions of the ICE officers were constitutionally appropriate,” wrote the judge in his preliminary decision. On the other hand, it could determine that ICE officials acted illegally.

Some immigration lawyers and analysts view this development with optimism.

This case may offer specific guidance into whether legal presence awards rights to DACA recipients. It may also add clarification as to how they will be treated if arrested and detained.