Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, thought to be the first "Dreamer" swept up in the Trump administration crackdown on immigration violators, was released Wednesday after spending six weeks in federal detention.
"Today the judge affirmed that Daniel does not pose any risk to public safety," Luis Cortes, one of Ramirez's attorneys, said after a federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday ordered his release. "We are thrilled he will soon be home with his family."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested Ramirez on Feb. 5, having come to arrest his father, a repeat immigration violator, at their suburban Seattle apartment. Asked about his status, the Mexico-born Ramirez explained he was in the U.S. under the protection of President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Known as Dreamers, those who qualify can remain in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods without worry of being deported unless they commit a crime. Obama approved the program as a goodwill gesture to offspring of those in the country illegally who would otherwise lack a homeland. Ramirez was brought to the U.S. by his family at age 7.
But ICE officers questioned him despite his DACA status and claim that Ramirez indicated he was a member of a street gang, which Ramirez denies, and that he bore a gang tattoo, which Ramirez says is nothing more than the name of his hometown, La Paz. He was then taken into custody.
A team of pro bono attorneys from Public Counsel challenged the constitutionality of the arrest in U.S. District Court and fought his likely deportation in Immigration Court while Ramirez racked up 45 days in a Tacoma detention center.
The effort finally succeeded Tuesday when Immigration Judge John Odell in Tacoma granted Ramirez's release on a $15,000 bond. Ramirez answered questions from prosecutors during a two-hour hearing, said another of his attorneys, Mark Rosenbaum, who flew in from Los Angeles for the quickly arranged hearing.
"He was asked a series of questions by the government attorneys," Rosenbaum said. "He knocked them out of the park, denying any sort of gang involvement. Shortly after, the judge said he could be released on bond."
Rosenbaum added: "He's not going to get those 45 days back. And while I think he's thrilled to get out, he should have never been there in the first place."
Cases similar to Ramirez's have come to light since his arrest. They include a Dreamer in Mississippi who is also facing deportation. Daniela Vargas, 22, says she was targeted by ICE after speaking at a news conference about her hopes for immigration reform. "Daniela's case is representative of the mean-spirited and misguided immigration policy of this administration," said her attorney, Michelle Lapointe, of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ramirez was released without fanfare Wednesday pending his next Immigration Court hearing and released a brief statement afterward.
"I'm so happy to be reunited with my family today and can't wait to see my son," he said. "This has been a long and hard 46 days, but I'm so thankful for the support that I've gotten from everyone who helped me and for the opportunity to live in such an amazing country. I know that this isn't over, but I'm hopeful for the future, for me and for the hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers who love this country like I do."
Anderson is a special correspondent.
7:25 p.m.: The story was updated with a more complete written statement from Ramirez.
4:55 p.m., March 29: The story was updated with Ramirez's brief statement after his release.
3:10 p.m., March 29: The story was updated with comments from Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney for Daniel Ramirez Medina.