Editorial

What is the government's word worth?

So what exactly is the government’s word worth? We’re about to find out.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last month raided the home of a man in Washington state for whom they had a deportation order. Asleep in the same house was the man’s son, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, who had been brought to the U.S. at age 7 and who, under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, has been granted permission to remain and work in the country. When the ICE agents asked where he was born, Ramirez told them, “Mexico,” but added that he had received a deferral from deportation under DACA.

What happened next is under dispute, but after a brief conversation in which the agents say Ramirez told them he was in the country illegally, Ramirez was taken into custody. He now sits in a federal detention center, his DACA protection revoked, and is headed for a deportation hearing.

The government says it revoked Ramirez’s DACA status because ICE agents concluded he has gang affiliations, based on Ramirez’s statements to them and a tattoo. Ramirez denies that he told agents he associates with gang members despite what his lawyers described as intense pressure to do so, and said his “La Paz BCS” tattoo reflects his birthplace: La Paz, in Baja California Sur.

All in all, the government’s reasons for revoking Ramirez’s DACA protection and putting him in deportation proceedings are pretty flimsy, especially since the government had twice before — in 2014 and 2016 — determined that Ramirez had no criminal convictions or gang affiliations and found no other evidence that he might pose a threat to public safety and thus be ineligible for the program. It stretches credulity to think that two rounds of background checks conducted where Ramirez grew up in the Central Valley missed red flags that the ICE agents in Washington have so miraculously found.

It’s troubling that the government can upend someone’s life based on such thin accusations. People eligible for DACA apply for approval and pay a $495 processing fee to cover the costs of the background check. If approved, the government promises not to seek deportation for two years unless the recipient commits an act that makes him or her ineligible.

Of course, the government should be able to revoke DACA protections if it can demonstrate that a recipient has broken the law or otherwise fallen out of eligibility. In fact, it has revoked DACA relief for 1,500 people since the program began.

But the government should not break faith with recipients so easily as it has done with Ramirez, disrupting his life based on a “he said-he said” interrogation and agents’ questionable interpretation of a tattoo. That is neither just nor fair. If Ramirez ultimately is deported, it suggests that the government’s promises of protection are not to be taken seriously.

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