Does the federal government have evidence that a detained Dreamer is a gang member? His attorney says the accusation stems from a tattoo.
The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday defended its detention of local “Dreamer” Daniel Ramirez Medina, stating point blank that the 23-year-old father of a toddler is a gang member.
But one of his attorneys, Luis Cortes Romero, said immigration officials started accusing Ramirez Medina of gang membership just because of a tattoo.
While processing Ramirez Medina after being taken in custody Friday, the attorney said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents noticed a tattoo that said “La Paz BCS.”
La Paz means peace in Spanish, and is also the capital of Baja California Sur, the meaning behind the initials and the part of Mexico where Ramirez Medina was born, according to his attorney.
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His lawyers said he was about 7 when he was brought here, and was later given permission to stay and work legally in this country through President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, known as the “Dreamers” program.
“The officers were accusing him over and over again that he was a gang member, ” Cortes Romero said. “He just kept denying it.”
ICE spokeswoman Rose Richeson did not comment on how the tattoo may have played into agents’ suspicions. A statement she released Tuesday contradicted the attorney, however, saying that Ramirez Medina admitted gang membership, which was why agents took him into custody.
But Cortes Romero said that it was only after they had his client in custody that the tattoo raised their suspicions.
A federal-court hearing on Friday, Feb. 17, may provide more answers about whether the government has evidence to support its allegations. The hearing is the first in a lawsuit filed by Ramirez Medina against the federal government, claiming that his detention is unconstitutional.
The Homeland Security statement stressed that the government can and will deport Dreamers if they are found to pose a threat to national security or public safety. Since the program began in 2012, roughly 1,500 such people have lost their DACA status because of gang affiliation or a criminal conviction, the statement said.
Ramirez Medina’s detention sparked speculation that President Donald Trump was launching a crackdown on Dreamers, as he promised during his campaign. So far, though, the Trump administration has not announced any changes to the program.
According to Richeson, the agents were targeting a “prior-deported felon” when they conducted an operation at a Des Moines apartment Friday. The alleged felon appears to be Ramirez Medina’s father, who was arrested at the same time, according to the young man’s lawsuit.
Both dad and son were living in an apartment rented by Ramirez Medina’s brother, his attorney said.
Ramirez Medina, who worked in the agricultural industry in California according to his lawyer, moved here about a month ago from California in order to find a better-paying job that could help him support his 3-year-old son and mother. The child remains in California with his grandmother.