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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

To stay in America, he must convince a judge his tattoo isn’t gang related

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
Daniel Ramirez Medina (left) and his brother Tony Ramirez Medina outside of U.S. District Court in Seattle on May 1st, 2018.

A federal judge in Seattle has upheld, for now, Daniel Ramirez Medina’s DACA status.

Ramirez is a 25-year-old ‘dreamer’ living in Seattle who, despite having no criminal history, was stripped of his protected status and detained by federal immigration officials last year. Federal immigration officials recently warned Ramirez they would revoke his DACA status again. The primary dispute in his case: whether or not he’s affiliated with gangs.

In a court hearing Tuesday, Ramirez' lawyers argued he's not involved with a gang and that there’s no evidence to show he is. However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have alleged that Ramirez is a gang member. 

Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said Ramirez will continue to have DACA protections until the judge can decide whether he’s eligible for that program.

Ramirez' lawyers, including Ethan Dettmer, spoke after the court hearing.

Dettmer: "What we saw today was a remarkable thing that yet again the government is trying to take away Daniel Ramirez' immigration status... and trying to deport him from the country because they say he's a gang member, even though they have not a single fact that that's so."

His lawyers say it’s important the gang allegation be dropped so he can reapply for DACA with a clear name, and so if ICE ever does deport Ramirez, he's not endangered by gangs in Mexico.

Mark Rosenbaum is another member of Ramirez's legal team. He says this case could have broad implications. 

Rosenbaum: "It is a message to everyone in this country that if this branch of government says you're a gang member, there's nothing you can do to rebut it, in order for a federal judge to say the government was wrong. That is scary and that is unprecedented."

Ramirez is suing the federal government saying his arrest was illegal. Government officials dispute that and insist they're enforcing immigration law.

Ramirez was detained in February 2017 when federal agents arrived to arrest his father at their family home. ICE agents say Daniel Ramirez has a gang tattoo, but he says the tattoo represents his birthplace in Mexico. It's a nautical star and the initials for Baja California Sur.

An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on this week’s hearing, saying they don't comment on pending litigation.

Judge Martinez is expected to rule by May 15, when Ramirez's DACA status expires.

Year started with KUOW: 2006