SEATTLE – The governors of Mexico have written to an American court to express support for a Seattle-area man who has been detained for weeks despite his participation in a federal program to protect people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The National Conference of Governors of Mexico sent the letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue, who is overseeing the case of Daniel Ramirez Medina. Ramirez, a 23-year-old Mexican, was arrested Feb. 10 in a Seattle suburb by immigration agents who initially arrived to detain his father, identified as a previously deported felon.
"On behalf of Mexican nationals brought to the United States as young children by their parents, the Governors of Mexico would like to express our support and admiration for the daily struggle they endure in their effort to succeed, attain an education and shape their future and their communities' future through hard work," the letter reads.
Dated Feb. 25 and entered into the court record late Thursday, it was signed by the conference chairman, Gov. Graco Ramirez Garrido Abreu of the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City. It expresses confidence that Ramirez's "right to liberty will be fully observed and considered" in the court's expedited review of his case. Arguments are set for next Wednesday.
Ramirez's lawyers, who include Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School and the Los Angeles pro bono firm Public Counsel, argue that Ramirez's detention violates his constitutional rights, including those to due process and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The government has violated the promises it made to him when he participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, they say.
Ramirez has no criminal history and twice passed background checks to participate, most recently last spring.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that Ramirez acknowledged having gang ties, was arrested as a threat to public safety and should be deported. His lawyers insist he made no such admission, has no gang ties and the agents misinterpreted a tattoo on his forearm as a "gang tattoo."
The letter also expresses support for the deferred-action program itself, saying it rigorously vets participants and allows them "to live their lives without fear of arrest or arbitrary immigration prosecution."
The DACA program — derided as "illegal amnesty" by critics — has protected about 750,000 immigrants since the Obama administration launched it in 2012. It allows young immigrants who arrived as children and are living in the U.S. illegally to stay and obtain work permits, good for two years at a time.
The program remains in effect, but President Donald Trump has left its future uncertain.
A 22-year-old Argentinian woman who came to the U.S. at age 7, Daniela Vargas, faces deportation after her arrest Wednesday in Mississippi. A former participant in the program, she failed to renew her status when it expired last fall because she couldn't afford the $495 fee until she finally reapplied last month, her lawyer said. She was arrested after criticizing Trump's immigration policies during a news conference.