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Federal judge in Seattle says U.S. can’t immediately revoke man’s DACA status

Daniel Ramirez Medina, right, walks with a man identified as his brother following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Gene Johnson / Associated Press)
Daniel Ramirez Medina, right, walks with a man identified as his brother following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Gene Johnson / Associated Press)
By Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE — A federal judge said Tuesday the government cannot immediately revoke a Mexican man’s enrollment in a program designed to protect those brought to the United States illegally as children, saying he wants more information from lawyers before he issues a preliminary ruling.

Daniel Ramirez Medina, 25, drew international attention last year when the government revoked his status in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and placed him in deportation proceedings, even though he has no criminal record.

His arrest signaled an erosion of the program’s protections under President Donald Trump, and courts have since blocked the administration’s efforts to end it. In response to one of those rulings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last month restored Ramirez’s DACA status — only to immediately notify him that the agency planned to revoke it again, citing allegations of gang ties which an immigration judge has already found to be false.

Against that backdrop, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez held a hearing in his Seattle courtroom Tuesday. Ramirez’s lawyers asked the judge to bar the government from further rescinding their client’s protections, which allow some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain and study or work, or from continuing to allege that he has been involved in gangs.

The government’s attorneys, however, insisted that such actions by the court would be premature or unwarranted. The Justice Department’s Jeffrey Robins argued that while Citizenship and Immigration Services has notified Ramirez of its intent to strip his DACA status, it has not actually done so — and thus, there is no final agency decision for Ramirez’s lawyers to challenge.

Ramirez is due to respond on May 7 to the government’s latest efforts to revoke his status, and a final decision could follow soon after.

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Even with that deadline, the judge said another technical hurdle could prevent him from granting the relief Ramirez seeks: Ramirez initially asked the court to restore his DACA status. The government has already done so, even if it plans to revoke it again. Martinez asked the lawyers for further briefing about whether, at this stage, it would be procedurally appropriate for him to grant Ramirez’s new requests.

Ramirez’s lawyers urged the judge not to lose sight of the difficult situation their client faces. He was taken into custody at a suburban Seattle home when agents went to arrest his father. Agents insisted he had a gang tattoo — in reality, it merely had the name of his hometown in Mexico — and that he admitted having gang ties, which he denies.

Ramirez three times passed background checks to participate in DACA; the government has offered no corroborating evidence of his purported gang involvement; and at one hearing in immigration court, a government lawyer acknowledged having no indication that he posed a public safety risk. An immigration judge found that Ramirez did not have gang ties, but ordered him deported because he is in the country illegally, a decision Ramirez is appealing.

“The government continues to make this assertion that it itself has disavowed,” Ramirez attorney Ethan Dettmer told the judge, calling it a “stark, vicious lie.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Martinez asked the Justice Department’s lawyer whether the government can corroborate his purported gang ties. Robins offered none, but responded, “Your honor, that’s why we have this process.”

Ramirez said he has been working as a field hand in California vineyards since regaining his DACA status and work authorization. If he loses it again, his lawyers said, he will be unable to provide for his 4-year-old son, who is a U.S. citizen.

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