Mexican 'DREAMer' detained by ICE in immigrant crackdown

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. immigration authorities have detained a 23-year-old Mexican man who was brought to the United States illegally as a child and given a work permit during the Obama administration, according to a lawsuit challenging the detention in Seattle federal court.

The man's lawyers say this could be the first time under U.S. President Donald Trump that a person covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been taken into immigration custody. The program was established in 2012 by Democratic President Barack Obama to allow those brought to the country while young to attend school and work.

Ethan Dettmer, a partner in the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and one of the lawyers representing the man, Daniel Ramirez Medina, said he is not aware of any other DACA recipient who has been arrested.

"We are hoping this detention was a mistake," he added.

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Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Pro-Trump demonstrators yell slogans during protest against the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
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Demonstrators watch from an overpass as a counter-protester holds a sign outside Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Court decisions temporarily blocked the U.S. administration from enforcing parts of Trump's order after a day in which students, refugees and dual citizens were stuck overseas or detained and some businesses warned employees from those countries not to risk leaving the United States. Photographer: Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A counter-protester, right, holds a sign and chants in front of other demonstrators outside Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) protesting against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Court decisions temporarily blocked the U.S. administration from enforcing parts of Trump's order after a day in which students, refugees and dual citizens were stuck overseas or detained and some businesses warned employees from those countries not to risk leaving the United States. Photographer: Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

A demonstrator in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rallies at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Police officers stand guard as demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Trump supporters demonstrate against a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Arriving international travelers pass through a line of Trump supporters demonstrating against a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Trump supporters argue with a man (R) who supports a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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Ramirez was a "self-admitted gang member," said Rose Richeson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in a statement.

"ICE officers took Mr Ramirez into custody based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety."

Richeson declined to elaborate further on how ICE established the man was a member of a gang.

Dettmer said Ramirez "unequivocally denies" being in a gang.

"While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation," said Dettmer. "The statement issued tonight by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not accurate."

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Ramirez, who has no criminal record according to court papers filed in his case, was taken into custody last week at his father's home in Seattle by ICE officers.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with ABC News last month, Trump said his administration was devising a policy on how to deal with people covered by DACA, without indicating any concrete plans.

"They are here illegally. They shouldn't be very worried. I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody. We're going to have a very strong border," Trump said at the time.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed by Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe and other prominent attorneys, officers went to the home to arrest the man's father. Court documents do not make clear why the father was taken into custody.

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Ramirez, now detained in Tacoma, Washington, was granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States under DACA in about 2014, according to the lawsuit, and his status was renewed in 2016. Reuters viewed a document attached to the lawsuit that appeared to confirm his DACA approval.

The program protects from deportation 750,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, sometimes called "dreamers."

Trump, a Republican who took office on Jan. 20, has promised a crackdown on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of whom come from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Although the reasons for Ramirez's arrest are in dispute, a move against DACA recipients would represent a significant broadening of immigration enforcement under Trump.

Reuters could not independently confirm whether other DACA recipients have been detained since Trump took office.

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Ramirez filed a challenge to his detention in Seattle federal court on Monday, arguing that the government violated his constitutional rights because he had work authorization under the DACA program, his lawsuit said.

Ramirez was in custody and unavailable for comment.

A BROKEN PROMISE?

Another of Ramirez's lawyers, Mark Rosenbaum of the legal advocacy group Public Counsel, characterized the DACA program as a promise from the federal government's executive branch that DACA recipients would not be targeted for deportation and said he hoped that promise would not be broken.

Emily Langley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle, said the Justice Department is still reviewing the case.

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Under 2014 guidance from the Obama administration, someone would be a deportation priority for gang activity only if they had been convicted of an offence in connection with the gang, not for gang affiliation alone, although there was room for discretion on the part of immigration officials. Reuters could not determine whether gang members who had not committed crimes were deported during Obama's tenure.

U.S. immigration officers last week arrested more than 680 people in the country illegally. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the operations, conducted in at least a dozen states, were routine and consistent with regular operations.

But immigrant advocacy groups and Democrats have expressed concern that the Trump administration will escalate immigration enforcement efforts in line with the president's tough stance toward illegal immigrants.

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Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, (R) reads his phone at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Sergio Medrano, 30, sits in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S., in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Jose Angel Garcia, 42, holds a crucifix he made as he waits at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S. following two years in an immigration detention center, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Gilda Loureiro, who runs the Juan Bosco migrant shelter, stands in one of the shelter's dormitories, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A migrant talks to his family at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrant Jever Danilo, 14, from El Salvador, who hopes to make it to Los Angeles, stands in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrants arrive at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S., in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Rosary beads left by migrants are seen in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, looks out at Nogalas from the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Mexican migrant Jaime Manuel Perez Mancinas, 31, holds the hand of a three-year-old Honduran refugee as he waits at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S. following two years in an immigration detention center, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, (R) waits for dinner at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The Juan Bosco migrant shelter is seen in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Religious keepsakes left by migrants are seen in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, reads his phone at a the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Ramirez in his lawsuit is seeking immediate release and an injunction forbidding the government from arresting him again. A hearing in the case has been scheduled for Friday.

According to the lawsuit, Ramirez was asleep at his father's home last Friday morning when ICE agents arrived and arrested the father. When they entered, they asked Ramirez if he was in the country legally, and Ramirez said he had a work permit, the lawsuit stated.

ICE agents took Ramirez to a processing center in Seattle and he again disclosed his DACA work permit, the lawsuit stated.

Ramirez was fingerprinted, booked and taken to a detention center in Tacoma where he remained on Tuesday, said Rosenbaum.

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