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SEATTLE -- A Seattle federal judge has recommended that the case of Daniel Ramirez Medina, the “dreamer” detained last month, be heard on an expedited schedule.
Judge James P. Donohue denied a DOJ motion to dismiss the case from U.S. District Court but also denied Ramirez’s attorneys’ request for conditional release.
Instead, he wants the merits phase of the case, or larger case, to move forward as quickly as possible, noting that Ramirez remains in custody and “because there are nearly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries who are interested in the outcome of these proceedings.”
Western Washington U.S. District Court Chief Judge Martinez will rule on Judge Donohue's report and recommendation, following any new filings by lawyers on either side due by the end of the month.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, a recipient of the deferred action program started under President Obama, known as “DACA,” was taken into custody nearly a month ago, during an operation targeting his father, a previously deported felon, according to ICE.
Ramirez’s attorneys argue his arrest raises constitutional questions of due process, and they believe the case could have implications for DACA recipients nationwide.
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Ramirez's legal team said they're disappointed Ramirez remains in custody, but they called Judge Donohue's recommendation, overall, a significant legal victory.
"It is a victory that preserves the constitutional structure of separation of power and says to ICE and to the executive branch that its action, its detentions cannot be immune from judicial review," said attorney Mark Rosenbaum by phone.
"It’s a signal to the ICE agents and immigration authorities that the courts are watching them," added attorney Theodore Boutrous.
As part of the larger case, Ramirez's attorneys ultimately want the federal Judge to issue a declaration providing clarity and guidance for dreamers and their due process rights.
"What we’re asking the federal court to declare in connection with this petition is that DACA recipients have a property right and a liberty interest that’s created by the promises that the government made in connection with DACA; that the government can't take those rights away without due process, without a fair proceeding" said Boutrous. "That would be a significant protection going forward that we think is vital to protecting the fundamental due process rights of these individuals.”
However, in the view of the Department of Justice, Ramirez lost his DACA status upon arrest. Removal proceedings are also moving foward, according to Ramirez's attorneys, as part of a separate process in immigration court. A hearing in that part of the case is tentatively scheduled for next week.
The DOJ has alleged that Ramirez admitted to gang affiliation during questioning. In court documents, officers also noted a “gang tattoo,” on Ramirez’s forearm.
Attorneys from Ramirez deny any gang affiliation and argue the tattoo represents his birthplace. They also allege Ramirez was pressured into making statements about gangs.
The larger case is expected to shed light on why the accounts between the two sides are so vastly different.
"When this case is concluded, it could result in the determination that the ICE officers acted improperly by taking Petitioner into custody and questioning him even after they discovered that he was a DACA beneficiary," wrote Judge Donohue in his report released Tuesday.
"Alternatively, it could result in a determination that although DACA establishes a basis for lawful presence in the United States, it does not create a constitutionally protected liberty interest, and the actions of the ICE officers were constitutionally appropriate. These questions are not yet before the Court," Judge Donohue continued.
When asked about the due process rights of DACA recipients, a DHS spokeswoman sent the following statment to KING 5:
“A decision to grant deferred action may be revoked by DHS at any time, particularly in the case of someone who commits a crime or is otherwise found to pose a national security of public safety threat,” said a DHS spokesperson when asked what due process rights are afforded to DACA recipients.
“Aliens granted deferred action from deportation are not protected by any kind of legal status, but are typically given a lower level of enforcement priority,” said the statement.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, who spent his 24th birthday last week, while still in custody, posted an Op-Ed in the Washington Post on Monday.
""I am hopeful that I will have a future in this country, but I know that this case is not just about me," wrote Ramirez in part. "Hundreds of thousands of dreamers are questioning just what sort of protection the government's promise provides."