A Seattle area man detained by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally as children admitted to having gang ties and that he had been arrested previously, the U.S. Justice Department said in court documents filed Thursday.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, "stated 'no, not no more,' when asked if he is or has been involved with any gang activity," the documents said.
Ramirez, who is Mexican and arrived in the U.S. at age 7, was asked by authorities who arrested him about a tattoo described in the documents as a "gang tattoo" and "responded that he 'used to hang out with the Surenos in California,' that he 'fled California to escape from the gangs,' and that he 'still hangs out' with" gang members in Washington state," the documents added.
Ramirez's arrest last week has thrust him into a national debate over the immigration priorities of President Donald Trump. Some saw the detention as the opening salvo in an attack on former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, while federal authorities suggested it was simply a routine exercise of their authority.
One of Ramirez' lawyers, Mark Rosembaum said the federal allegations were false and that authorities misidentified the tattoo.
"Mr. Ramirez did not say these things because they are not true," Rosenbaum said in statement. "And while utterly implausible and wholly fabricated, these claims still would not be sufficient evidence that Mr. Ramirez is a threat to the public safety or national security."
The court documents blacked out a picture of the tattoo, but Ramirez' lawyers said it reads "La Paz BCS." La Paz means "Peace" in Spanish and is also the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, where Ramirez was born.
Ramirez is father of a 3-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen, his lawyers have said. He worked as a field hand in California before moving to Washington, and he twice passed background checks to participate in the DACA program — most recently last spring, they said.
The government's filing confirmed that Ramirez has no criminal record, but said he told authorities he was recently arrested for speeding.
Immigration agents found him last Friday when they went to an apartment complex in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines to arrest his father, identified as Antonio Ramirez-Polendo. Ramirez-Polendo was deported eight times between 2000 and 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday, and served a year in prison in Washington state for felony drug trafficking.
The DACA program — referred to as "Dreamers" by supporters and derided as "illegal amnesty" by critics — has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012. It allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Ramirez was being held at a detention center in Tacoma pending deportation proceedings. The statement said participants can have their status revoked if they're found to pose a threat to national security or public safety.
About 1,500 immigrants granted DACA status since 2012 have had it revoked have had it revoked because of criminal convictions or gang affiliations.
Trump told a news conference Thursday that he intended to "deal with DACA with heart."
"The DACA situation is a very, very, it's a very difficult thing for me because, you know, I love these kids," Trump said. "I love kids. I have kids and grandkids."