The illegal immigrant Dreamer arrested in Washington state last week had an arrest record and had ties to at least two criminal gangs, the Justice Department said in a filing Thursday, raising the stakes in a case that’s come to be a major test of President Trump’s immigration policies.
His lawyers have insisted Daniel Ramirez Medina, the 23-year-old Dreamer in question, has no gang ties and no criminal record, and say he never should have been arrested since he was approved for tentative legal status under President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty.
But gang members aren’t eligible for the program, and the government says Mr. Ramirez not only had a gang tattoo, but said he used to “hang out” with the Sureno gang in California, fled that state to get away from gangs, and but still “hangs out” with the Paizas gang in Washington.
The government said his approval under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy has been revoked and he is now in deportation proceedings.
Mr. Ramirez’s lawyers, though, said the government’s evidence is flimsy.
They said the tattoo the government identified as gang-related says “La Paz BCS.” La Paz means peace, and BCS stands for Baja California Sur, where Mr. Ramirez was born, said Mark Rosenbaum, the lawyer at Public Counsel who’s part of Mr. Ramirez’s defense team.
He also said Mr. Ramirez never admitted to associating with gangs.
“Mr. Ramirez did not say these things because they are not true. And while utterly implausible and wholly fabricated, these claims still would not be sufficient evidence that Mr. Ramirez is a threat to the public safety or national security,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.
Immigrant-rights groups have taken up Mr. Ramirez’s cause, saying his status under Mr. Obama’s 2012 policy should have protected him from being arrested.
Under that policy, more than 750,000 young adult illegal immigrants have been approved for stays of deportation, and have been issued work permits. The applicants call themselves “Dreamers.”
They are still considered to be illegal immigrants, but have temporary status — which the government says can be revoked at any time, at federal agents’ discretion.
Advocates say that the government has “betrayed” the promise of Mr. Obama’s policy, and said if Mr. Ramirez is a target, it means nobody is safe from deportation.
“Trump has created a culture of chaos in our immigration system,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center.