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SEATTLE A Seattle federal judge on Wednesday
wrestled with whether he has the power to release a Mexican
immigrant with a work permit who was arrested by U.S.
authorities last month.
Daniel Ramirez Medina was detained by Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers who went to his house to
arrest his father. ICE alleged Ramirez had gang ties and should
be deported. Ramirez’s lawyers have denied their client has any
gang involvement or criminal record, and called his arrest
Ramirez argues that the challenge to his arrest should be
heard in the federal courts, while U.S. Justice Department
attorneys say the case should proceed in a separate immigration
court. If Ramirez can win his freedom in Seattle federal court,
it could point a new way forward for thousands of people across
the country threatened by stepped-up immigration enforcement
under President Donald Trump. U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue said he hoped to issue a
ruling by early next week.
Immigration courts, which operate separately from the
broader federal judiciary, have a huge backlog and immigration
lawyers say it is difficult to win deportation challenges there.
At a hearing on Wednesday, Donohue questioned lawyers for
the Justice Department on whether they could set up a roadblock
to stop anyone “who is driving while brown,” start deportation
proceedings against them, and then send them to immigration
“They have no remedy or recourse in the district court?”
Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Robins said Ramirez’s
case is not such an extreme circumstance.
Ramirez’s case could be the first under the Trump
administration in which a person granted a work permit under the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been taken
into immigration custody, his lawyers say. The program started
by former President Barack Obama offers protection from
deportation for some 750,000 immigrants brought to the country
illegally as children. These people are sometimes called “dreamers,” in reference to the Development, Relief and
Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) legislation that failed to
Federal law says deportation cases must be heard in
immigration court, but Ramirez’s lawyers argue that they are
merely challenging his arrest, not his deportation. Still,
Donohue asked whether Ramirez’s arguments are so intertwined
with deportation that they should be heard in immigration court.
Ramirez’s lawyer Mark Rosenbaum repeated that they are
merely seeking a recognition that Ramirez’s arrest was improper
and an order releasing him.
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