DACA Recipient Detained By U.S. Immigration Authorities
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Now an immigration case that is getting a lot of attention. Daniel Ramirez Medina is a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant who remains in federal detention in Tacoma, Wash., today. His case stands out because it's the first known action taken against a registered DACA recipient under the Trump administration. DACA, of course, is President Obama's program for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The program gave them protection from deportation and gave them work permits. With us now is Mark Rosenbaum of the pro bono law firm Public Counsel. He is representing Ramirez. Welcome to the show.
MARK ROSENBAUM: Nice to talk with you.
MCEVERS: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested your client last Friday morning...
MCEVERS: ...After they had arrested his father. And later, ICE described him in a statement as a, quote, "self-admitted gang member" and, quote, "a risk to public safety." First, we have to ask, is Daniel Ramirez a gang member?
ROSENBAUM: No. That's nonsense. There is no criminal record on him. He has twice been certified as a DACA beneficiary. That is no easy matter. You open up your life. You open up the lives of your loved ones, families, everyone you know. And a specific part of the scrutiny that you subject yourself to is whether you've had any connection to the criminal justice system, whether you've committed any crime, any sort of serious criminal action as well as gang affiliations. Have you been a member of a gang? Do you associate with gang members in any sort of serious way? The Department of Homeland Security has access to every criminal law database, every gang database in the universe. And it would be an insult to DHS to say that that Daniel, who has been certified in 2014 and more recently in 2016 - that they somehow missed those affiliations.
MCEVERS: What is your understanding of what rights and protections his DACA registration - this status gives him at this point?
ROSENBAUM: DACA was set up to recognize that children who came to this country - Daniel came here when he was 7 years old. He has spent most of his life here. If you qualify for DACA - and you don't automatically do that - the federal government will defer any sort of enforcement action against you. That is a solemn promise. If we have to go to court on this - that's the reason we filed in federal court - then we're going to argue that the government must be held to its word.
MCEVERS: I mean, some people see what happened to your client as unfair. And there are other people in this country who will say he came here illegally. You know, he's broken the laws.
ROSENBAUM: He came here as a 7-year-old. And I think whatever anyone thinks about immigration issues, there has to be a recognition that we're dealing with a 7-year-old who had no part in that. But I think there's a bigger principle, and that is whatever anyone thinks about immigration - and people can take all sorts of positions on that - everyone has to agree that when the executive branch makes a promise, it must keep its word.
MCEVERS: Last month, President Trump in an interview with ABC News suggested he would not focus on DACA recipients for deportation. He said they shouldn't be worried. I do have a big heart. I mean, what did you take from that and how are you counseling other DACA recipients?
ROSENBAUM: I took from President Trump's statement that what is a fact is a fact and that is that this program remains in operation. We know the president has issued multiple executive orders in the area of immigration. None of them have pulled back on DACA.
And what I would say to DACA beneficiaries is pay attention to this case. Talk to your representatives as to what's going on. But there is no reason to believe that this is anything other than a mistake and that the DACA program, the DACA promise remains in effect.
MCEVERS: What's next for Daniel Ramirez Medina, your client?
ROSENBAUM: Well, I hope that what's next is that the government will admit that a mistake was made and release him, and everyone would just go about their business. If in fact that doesn't happen, we're scheduled to appear in federal court this Friday in Seattle. And in the meantime, we continue to say to ICE, to the federal government, if you have any evidence that justifies the statement that he's a gang member - any evidence at all that suggests that he's a criminal risk to the public safety, to the national security, which is the test for DACA, please come forward with what it is. But as of now, we haven't seen anything like it. And we're prepared to go to court and fight this for as long as it takes.
MCEVERS: Mark Rosenbaum of the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, thank you very much.
ROSENBAUM: Thanks for your interest.
MCEVERS: Shortly after this conversation, the Department of Homeland Security released a new statement. It repeats the assertion that Daniel Ramirez Medina is a gang member. The statement also explains that quote, "under DHS policy, aliens granted deferred action from deportation who are subsequently found to pose a threat to national security or public safety may have their deferred action terminated at any time, and they can be deported." The statement also says that since DACA began in 2012, about 1,500 recipients have had their deferred action revoked due to a criminal conviction or gang affiliation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.