SEATTLE - A 23-year-old man who was brought to the United States when he was 7 years old was detained Friday by immigration authorities, despite his status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Immigration officials said they took Daniel Ramirez Medina into custody "based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety."
"Mr. Ramirez -- a self-admitted gang member -- was encountered at a residence in Des Moines, Washington, during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Rose Richeson said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, demanded Ramirez's immediate release. She said President Donald Trump "is tearing apart families and striking fear into immigrant communities."
Jayapal called for Trump to have Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly immediately "right this wrong instead of putting his stamp of approval on deporting innocent young people who were brought here through no fault of their own, followed all the laws in signing up for DACA, and have not lived in the country they are being sent back to."
While the immigration spokeswoman called Ramirez a risk to public safety, Jayapal said: "Daniel belongs in our community and must be released immediately to his family."
Mark Rosenbaum, one of Ramirez's lawyers, told reporters Tuesday that Ramirez "unequivocally denies being in a gang" and that the statement from Richeson is inaccurate.
"While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation," Rosenbaum told The Associated Press.
His only court record in Washington is a 2016 speeding stop. A Washington State Patrol trooper said Ramirez went 5 miles over the speed limit in Thurston County, and Ramirez listed an Olympia address. He paid a $150 fine and the case was deferred, according to court records.
"It appears that the promise that DACA represented, that individuals would be permitted to work in this country … and pursue their lives if they entered as children, was violated and this was the first time that we learned of any DACA beneficiary being picked up by immigration," Rosenbaum said. "They said to Daniel, 'Tell us where you were born, your name and birthplace.' (They) had no basis to ask those questions, other than him being Latino. They asked, he answered, (he) told them he had a permit and they brought him down to the processing place in Seattle."
Attorneys file complaint
Ramirez was arrested Feb. 10 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and taken to the Northwest Detention Center to await the outcome of removal proceedings before an immigration judge, Richeson said.
A complaint filed by Ramirez's attorneys and obtained by KIRO showed that Ramirez, who has authorization to live and work in the U.S. under DACA, has been in custody in Tacoma. Ramirez's attorneys filed the complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Kelly and Nathalie Asher, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Seattle field office.
The complaint says Ramirez was twice granted DACA status and therefore determined to pose no threat to national security or public safety.
Immigration official responds
Richeson said Ramirez was identified as a risk when he was detained as a self-admitted gang member.
The complaint filed by his attorneys says: "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 told 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."
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.
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.