Detained immigrant 'Dreamer:' 'I was supposed to be one of the lucky ones'
SEATTLE (KCPQ) — Local immigrant 'Dreamer' said Monday he thought he was "one of the lucky ones" when he was granted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status by the federal government, but now he sits in federal custody as officers seek deportation efforts against him.
"Last week, I spent my 24th birthday in detention," Ramirez wrote in an op-ed column for The Washington Post, which published the article Monday.
He noted that he was brought to the United States from Mexico at the age of 7 by his parents and spent most of his life here and now has a child of his own. "This country is my home," he wrote.
"I was detained and brought here on Feb. 10, just over a month after moving from the Central Valley in California to the Seattle area to find a better job to support my family," he wrote. "Before this, I never thought that I would end up in a news headline or have my name become a hashtag on social media. I was supposed to be one of the lucky ones. In 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gave young people like me, who were brought to the United States without authorization as kids, what we craved the most — legal status to live, study, work and even serve in the military, without the fear of deportation. The day that I was approved for DACA was one of the happiest days of my life.
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He noted that 750,000 others, like him, were given DACA protection with the promise that they "could work hard, take care of our families and live without the constant fear of being sent to a country that we don't know, forced to leave the people we love behind."
He said that ICE agents took him into custody on Feb. 10 while arresting his father. "Agents said that I was a gang member and that a tattoo on my arm means I'm in a gang. I got that tattoo when I was 18 to honor La Paz, Mexico, the city where I was born. Agents interrogated me for hours and insisted I was a gang member because I'm from the Central Valley. They are all gang members there, they told me. It didn't seem to matter how many times I told them that I wasn't."
He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement "already knows that I'm not a gang member. Like all Dreamers, I gave all of my personal information and fingerprints to the government to qualify for DACA. I've been checked against every state and federal database that the government has. They verified twice that I have no criminal history, was never affiliated with any gang and was not a threat to public safety. Despite that, I was treated as if my DACA status and my work authorization meant nothing."
He said he feels "lucky" because he has an "incredible legal team" and support from his family and from thousands across the country, while he waits to find out if a judge will decide if he can be released and whether his case can be heard in federal court instead of immigration court. He said he is still "hopeful that I will still have a future in this country."
He wrote that it's just not about him, but about all of the "Dreamers" in the U.S. "If I can be arrested and detained without any evidence, what will happen to them?"
"My parents brought me to the United States because they wanted for me what all parents want for their kids — a good shot at life. Dreamers like me aren't asking for handouts. We want the government to stand by its promise and let us contribute to our communities and take care of our families without being thrown out and sent back to a country we don't know.
"Part of why I love this country is because it embraces people who have different cultures and languages. It rewards people who work hard and help others. And it stands for the promise of a better future. This is the America that I love and the America that I hope stands behind us Dreamers," Ramirez concluded.
Ramirez has been held in the ICE detention center in Tacoma since his arrest on Feb. 10.