-- The Obama administration policy protecting the children of unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States in their youth may face its first test under the Trump administration when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a Mexican migrant in Washington state last week.
The arrest of Daniel Ramirez, 23, first reported by Reuters Tuesday evening, is possibly the first of an immigrant protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program during the presidency of Donald Trump.
Trump campaigned on the progress to halt unauthorized immigration, particularly from Mexico, and to roll back Obama-era programs that provide amnesty to immigrants already living in the country.
Under DACA, people like Ramirez -- termed Dreamers -- brought to the country by their parents are protected from deportation and granted the right to work legally in the U.S. An estimated 750,000 people are protected by the act.
Deferred action for Dreamers can be denied however if the applicant’s presence in the country “threatens public safety or national security,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An ICE spokesperson said Ramirez is “a self-admitted gang member,” one of the examples provided by USCIS as a threat.
“ICE officers took Mr. Ramirez into custody based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety,” said the spokesperson.
According to court documents filed by Ramirez’s attorneys, Ramirez was at his father’s home on Friday when ICE agents raided the home with an arrest warrant for his father. After his father granted ICE officers permission to reenter the home so he could speak with his sons, the agents questioned Ramirez and brought him to a detention center, despite his claims that he has a work permit.
“The government offered no explanation of why Mr. Ramirez was initially taken into custody and why he is still being held,” said Theodore Boutrous, Jr., Ramirez’s attorney. “He had documentation that clearly indicated he had DACA status, allowing him to live and work in the United States.”
Trump boisterous statements about immigration to the U.S. have included explicit calls to rescind Obama’s executive order. After the Supreme Court split in a 4-4 decision in June 2016 on DACA, placing the future of the program in limbo, Trump released a statement, calling DACA, “one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President."
Trump added, “The executive amnesty from President Obama wiped away the immigration rules written by Congress, giving work permits and entitlement benefits to people illegally in the country."
In a January interview with ABC’s David Muir, however, Trump claimed -- while noting that they were in the U.S. “illegally” -- that Dreamers “shouldn’t be very worried.”
“I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody,” said Trump, adding, “We'll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of four weeks.”
After news of Ramirez’s arrest spread Tuesday night, a number of lawmakers quickly expressed their concern.
“ICE must provide answers & release Daniel immediately,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. “This action does nothing to make our country safe.”
“Its unacceptable #DREAMERS who were brought to US as kids & have grown up, gone to school here are being detained,” tweeted Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. “I am looking into this troubling situation.”