Daniel Ramirez Medina says the day he was approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was "one of the happiest days of my life."
DACA allows people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country. In a Washington Post op-ed today, Ramirez Medina, who was detained by federal immigration agents near Seattle last month, says his DACA approval allowed him to "stop being afraid and fully participate in the incredible opportunities this country has to offer." He found work, started taking classes, and later moved from California to Seattle.
But, despite his DACA status, Ramirez Medina was arrested near Seattle on February 10. In a case that has attracted national attention because of what its outcome could mean for the 750,000 DACA recipients across the country, Ramirez Medina's lawyers are challenging his detainment. Among other things, they allege that immigration officials doctored a statement given by Ramirez Medina in an effort to prove he was involved with gangs, an allegation his lawyers deny.
In the op-ed today, Ramirez Medina describes the feeling of betrayal that came with his arrest:
It sounds simple, but that was the promise that DACA gave 750,000 people like me: We could work hard, take care of our families and live without the constant fear of being sent to a country that we don’t know, forced to leave behind the people we love.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me when immigration agents came into my apartment after they arrested my father outside. I was arrested, too, detained and brought to this center. Agents said that a tattoo on my arm means I’m in a gang. I got that tattoo when I was 18 to honor La Paz, Mexico, the city where I was born. Agents interrogated me for hours and insisted I was a gang member because I’m from the Central Valley. They are all gang members there, they told me. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I told them that I wasn’t.
They don’t even need to take my word for it — the government already knows that I’m not a gang member. Like all “dreamers,” I gave all of my personal information and fingerprints to the government to qualify for DACA. I’ve been checked against every state and federal database. They verified twice that I have no criminal history, was never affiliated with any gang and was not a threat to public safety. Despite that, I was treated as though my DACA status and my work authorization meant nothing.
A federal judge is expected to decide this week whether the federal court has the jurisdiction to consider Ramirez Medina's case and whether he will remain detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.