Los Angeles (AFP) – US immigration authorities arrested a Mexican man without residency papers even though he has special status protecting him from deportation, lawyers and the government said.
Lawyers for Daniel Ramirez Medina said his arrest — for the purpose of expulsion — was a first among people included in the so-called DACA program protecting unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The arrest also raises questions about the future of the estimated 750,000 immigrants who have filed for this special status since then-president Barack Obama introduced it with an executive order in 2012, the lawyers said.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Ramirez, 23, was arrested Friday by immigration enforcement agents near Seattle in the northwestern state of Washington.
US immigration authorities arrested at least 680 people across the country last week for expulsion as part of President Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on people, mostly Latinos, who are in the country illegally.
Officers showed up at Ramirez’s house to arrest his father, who also lacks papers and had already been deported once, and ended up taking in both of them, said human rights lawyers working for Ramirez.
Ramirez came to the United States with his parents when he was seven. He first applied for and obtained protection under the DACA program in 2014, and renewed it in 2016.
This allows Ramirez, who now has a toddler son born in the US, to live and work legally in the country for at least two more years.
“The unprecedented and unjustified detention of Daniel… violates the solemn promises made to him and other DACA recipients,” said Mark Rosenbaum, one of his lawyers working for the pro-bono firm Public Counsel.
DACA was created as a temporary measure to avoid the deportation of hundreds of thousands of youths who came illegally to America as children with their parents, have lived almost their entire lives in the US and are integrated into US culture.
But immigration authorities say Ramirez confessed to being a member of a street gang, and this can be grounds for being denied DACA status.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers “took Mr. Ramirez into custody based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety,” said ICE spokeswoman Rose Richeson.
Ramirez’s lawyers say the confession was obtained under duress and that Ramirez has never committed a crime and has no criminal record.
A hearing on Ramirez’s case is scheduled for Friday in Seattle.