Federal agents attempted to alter evidence and fabricate a story about gang ties for a Dreamer the government is trying to deport, the illegal immigrant’s lawyers said in court filings Thursday night, escalating a case that’s become a major test of President Trump’s immigration policies.
Daniel Ramirez was approved twice under the Obama administration’s 2012 deportation amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which is supposed to prevent recipients from being kicked out of the country.
But the 23-year-old Mexican was snared in a raid last week when agents came to grab his father, an eight-times deported illegal immigrant, and is now awaiting his own deportation in a case his lawyers say is a test of major constitutional protections for illegal immigrants who’ve been granted DACA.
“As a Dreamer, Mr. Ramirez has constitutional rights that deserve to be protected,” his lawyers said in their brief, filed in federal district court in Washington state late Thursday.
At issue are competing visions of Mr. Obama’s 2012 program. When it was created, Homeland Security characterized DACA as discretionary and revocable at any time, based on officers’ judgments.
But Mark D. Rosenbaum, one of Mr. Ramirez’s lawyers, said DACA is actually a “solemn promise” to illegal immigrants that if they turned over their information to the government, they would not be “arbitrarily and capriciously arrested and detained.”
He said the government has botched the case from its initial arrest up through now, with Mr. Ramirez still in custody and awaiting a deportation hearing.
“What began, I thought, as a mistake in bringing Daniel in has turned into a bogus operation that is attempting to railroad him and violate the sacred promise that the DACA program represents,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.
Immigrant rights groups have said Mr. Ramirez’s case suggests no illegal immigrant is safe.
But for now, Mr. Ramirez’s case appears to be an outlier.
The government is still processing DACA applications, and has respected DACA approvals in other cases. The Border Patrol said it encountered a DACA-approved illegal immigrant in New York in the last few days as part of an operation, and let him go because of his status.
Homeland Security has said that Mr. Ramirez lost his ability to be part of DACA because of his gang affiliations.
The government says Mr. Ramirez not only had a gang tattoo, but said he admitted he used to “hang out” with the Sureno gang in California, fled that state to get away from gangs, but still “hangs out” with the Paizas gang in Washington.
Mr. Rosenbaum flatly rejected those claims, saying the DACA application process Mr. Ramirez has gone through twice before included checks of gang affiliations, and he was not flagged either time.
He said Mr. Ramirez has one tattoo, but it doesn’t match any known gang tattoo. The design says “La Paz BCS.” “La Paz” means “peace,” and BCS stands for Baja California Sur, where Mr. Ramirez was born, Mr. Rosenbaum said.
He also said the government fabricated evidence this week when it took a document Mr. Ramirez filed where he stated he wasn’t a gang member, and erased words to make it look like he was a gang member.
“It is one of the most serious examples of governmental misconduct I’ve come across in my 40 years of practice,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.
ICE says DACA has always been at the discretion of the government. Homeland Security, in a statement this week, said about 1,500 recipients who had been approved have later been ousted from the program because of a criminal conviction or gang-related activities.
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