SEATTLE – A federal magistrate recommended Tuesday that the case of a Mexican man who was picked up by immigration agents near Seattle despite participating in a federal program for those brought to the country illegally as children remain in federal court and not in immigration court. The judge also declined to immediately release 24-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina while the case proceeds.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue denied the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the case brought by Ramirez, saying arguments that his constitutional rights were violated should be heard in U.S. District Court. Lawyers for Ramirez say his rights were violated with his February arrest and detention because Ramirez is a current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipient.
Government attorneys had argued that under federal immigration law, Ramirez could challenge his detention in immigration court, a system within the Justice Department. But Donohue said Ramirez’s claims are “independent of his removal” from the country.
Attorneys for Ramirez said Tuesday in a conference call that Donohue’s recommendation to have the case remain in federal court has in effect told the government that the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are not above judicial review.
“(It) represents a landmark legal victory, not only for all DACA recipients but for the rule of law,” Ramirez attorney Mark Rosenbaum said.
Ramirez came to the U.S. with his family at age 7, has no criminal record and twice passed background checks to participate in DACA, which allows young people brought to the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.
Immigration agents arrested his father, described as a previously deported felon, outside a suburban apartment complex on Feb. 10. They found Ramirez inside and arrested him too. He’s been held at the Northwest Immigrant Detention Center in Tacoma ever since.
In arrest reports, immigration agents said Ramirez admitted having gang ties and had a gang tattoo. Such potential threats to public safety can provide grounds for canceling someone’s participation in DACA, the government maintains.
Ramirez’s attorneys deny both allegations, saying the supposed gang tattoo pays homage to the city of La Paz in Mexico’s Baja California Sur state where he was born.
Ramirez lawyers maintained Tuesday that Ramirez should be released from jail and said they would file an objection Wednesday to the judge’s denial of Ramirez’s immediate release. Donohue found that he couldn’t conclude that Ramirez’s case was “extraordinary or involves special circumstances that would warrant conditional release at this time.”
Donohue also advised that because Ramirez remains jailed and because nearly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries are closely watching the outcome of the case, it should be put on an expedited schedule.
Donohue’s recommendations will next go before Chief District Judge Ricardo Martinez for consideration after the Justice Department has the chance to raise objections.
Lawyers for Ramirez said Tuesday while Martinez has the authority to accept or reject Donohue’s recommendations they believe he will uphold them based on the 46-page document’s thoroughness.