The dubious arrest and detention of “dreamer” Daniel Ramirez Medina should provoke a bigger fight in Congress.
DANIEL Ramirez Medina, a 24-year-old from Des Moines, is a so-called Dreamer. When he signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program two years ago, the U.S. government gave him the same promise given to 750,000 other DACA recipients. If they arrived before the age of 16, don’t get in trouble and go to school or work, they would enjoy a “lawful presence” here, if not full legal residency. Ramirez did all that.
Yet U.S. agents summarily reneged on that promise Feb. 10 when they arrested and locked up Ramirez in an immigration detention center in Tacoma. He remains there today. Ramirez did nothing to warrant the arrest. He was scooped up when immigration officers came to arrest his father. The agents did not arrest his brother, who is also a DACA recipient.
The Ramirez case is now a test of the Trump administration’s treatment of Dreamers. President Trump could revoke the DACA program. He hasn’t, perhaps because a broad majority of Americans support providing a safe haven to these law-abiding people brought to the country illegally as children. Trump should leave DACA in place, honor the promises to enrollees, and his administration should let Ramirez go.
Last week, Seattle U.S. District Court Judge James Donohue queued up a constitutional fight over Ramirez’s arrest. Administration lawyers wanted Ramirez’s case to go through a grindingly slow process in immigration courts, where 542,000 pending cases wait, on average, nearly two years for resolution because of chronic underfunding.
Donohue instead kept the case in federal district court, although he didn’t release Ramirez from detention. Ramirez’s lawyers — an all-star team from around the country — argue that Ramirez was unlawfully arrested and his DACA status revoked for no reason, in violation of the Constitution.
Trump’s lawyers say in court filings that Ramirez is a threat because of a tenuous connection to a gang, but their evidence is thin. Ramirez, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico around the age of 7, has twice passed DACA’s screening requirements, most recently last year. He was found to not be a security threat. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime. The gang accusation feels like an after-the-fact justification for an unwarranted arrest.
Bigger issues are at stake. If Ramirez’s DACA card can be torn up for doubtful reasons, so can the other 750,000. The failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform — including a path to citizenship — leaves Dreamers in limbo, at the mercy of Trump’s mood. DACA recipients are serving in the military, graduating from college and starting businesses. Now, because of Ramirez’s arrest and prolonged detention, they’re looking over their shoulders. There are at least 17,000 people with approved DACA applications just in Washington state.
DACA does not provide legal residency, but it did assure that enrollees who stepped out of the shadows would not be deported if they followed the rules. If Ramirez wins, and is finally released from detention, Congress should at long last provide him and the other Dreamers certainty. In the Trump era, that will be a difficult fight, but it is a righteous one.