Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, was picked up by immigration officials on February 10 and has now been detained at the Northwest Detention Center for more than a month. Being a twice-authorized Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) recipient with no criminal record didn't help him when immigration agents accused him of having gang affiliations—an allegation that Ramirez's lawyers deny. Now Ramirez is waiting for a federal court to rule on whether it has the jurisdiction to consider his case.
There are more than 750,000 "Dreamers" like Ramirez in the United States—immigrants who were brought to this country as children and are protected by the Obama-era DACA program. But the outcome of the Ramirez case could set a precedent for how they're treated by immigration officials under President Trump.
At a hearing this morning, Chief Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue admonished government lawyers for filing a brief last night that added another argument to the government's motion to dismiss the case against them. As a result of the filing's timing, Judge Donohue said, he wouldn't be able to make a decision at today's hearing. Instead, Judge Donohue asked Ramirez's lawyers to file a reply by Friday morning so he could issue a decision early next week.
Ramirez's lawyers are asking for two things: First, they're asking that Judge Donohue grant an emergency motion to release Ramirez pending the resolution of his petition for habeas corpus—a case that challenges his arrest and detention. They're also asking that Judge Donohue issue a declaration clarifying the "rules of the road" and rights of other DACA dreamers. At stake, the lawyers say, is the question of whether immigration officials can round up and detain DACA recipients and take away their DACA status without recourse in federal court.
Attorneys for the government, on the other hand, argue that Ramirez's case should go before the immigration court system, which belongs to the Department of Justice. Last month, Judge Donohue gave Ramirez's lawyers the opportunity for a bond hearing in front of an immigration judge, but Ramirez's lawyers decided to avoid using the immigration court system to deal with the issue of his detention.
"[The government's] argument is that the executive will judge the executive," Ramirez lawyer Mark Rosenbaum told Judge Donohue. Rosenbaum argued further that an immigration court wouldn't deal with the claims that Ramirez's constitutional rights were violated.
At a press conference after the hearing, Ramirez's lawyers said that if Ramirez's detention is allowed to stand, next week's decision could create a fear among other DACA recipients that they could be arrested, detained, and stripped of their DACA status at any time.
But if Ramirez is released early next week instead, the detained dreamer's lawyers foresee a different outcome for DACA recipients across the country. "If Daniel is released early next week, I think it will be a signal... that [DACA recipients] are going to be treated fairly, that they have due process rights in this country," Theodore Boutrous, another one of Ramirez's lawyers, said. "And that we'll be a better country for that."