A federal judge ruled on 17 February 2017 that a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant must receive a bail hearing after being detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
According to Reuters, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue ruled that, while Daniel Ramirez Medina may not be released from detention, he has the right to argue for his release in front of an immigration court.
Donohue's decision means that Medina's hearing must take place by 24 February 2017. Medina's detention is believed to be the first of its kind, since he currently has a U.S. work permit under the auspices of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a 2012 program implemented by then-President Barack Obama. He has no criminal record.
Under the program, Medina and around 750,000 undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as minors would be allowed to remain in the country for two years at a time if they met academic or military criteria without a felony conviction or "more than three misdemeanors of any kind."
Medina, who was brought into the U.S. when he was 7 years old, has also been referred to as a "DREAMer," a reference to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act), a 2001 bill that would have enabled minors under similar circumstances to eventually apply for permanent residency in the country.
"I recognize the unusual nature of this case, and I recognize that there are many people who are in similar situations as Mr. Ramirez who want answers to similar questions," Donohue said while making his ruling.
Immigration officials stated in a court document filed on 16 February 2017 that after being detained six days earlier, Ramirez admitted to "hanging out" with gang members in Washington state, where he lives, and that he also used to associate with gang members in California.
"Because of gang affiliation ICE standards do not allow a lower custody level," the document stated.
However, Ramirez's attorneys accused authorities of altering a section of the document in which Ramirez was allowed to state why he should not be detained.
The attorneys said that Ramirez's first sentence ("I came in and the officers said I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear an orange uniform.") was erased, leaving only the sentence, "I do not have a criminal history and I’m not affiliated with any gangs."
A picture purportedly showing the document can be seen below:
We contacted ICE seeking comment on both Donohue's ruling and the accusation by Medina's attorneys but have yet to hear back. A spokesperson for the agency, Rose Richeson, had previously told The Stranger, "I'm not familiar with the lawyer’s allegation. We stand by all statements previously released related to this case."
More than 400 non-profit groups released a letter on the day of Medina's court appearance asking Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and acting ICE Director Thomas Homan to release him.