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Immigrant protected under Obama program is now fighting his arrest

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  • NTB SCANPIX / REUTERS VIA NYT

    United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers conducted a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta on Thursday. More than 600 people across the country were arrested last week in roundups by the agency.

More than two years ago, Daniel Ramirez Medina, an unauthorized immigrant, applied for a special program created under the Obama administration that would allow him to stay and work in the United States.

But on Friday morning, when federal immigration agents showed up at his home in Seattle to take his father, they took Ramirez, 23, as well. His lawyers have now sued the federal government, arguing that he is being held in custody unconstitutionally, in an “unprecedented and unjustified” case.

“This is a clear violation of his rights,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with Public Counsel, who helped file the case on Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. “There was a solemn promise from the executive branch that they would be protected. People have staked their lives and well-being on that promise.”

President Donald Trump has been pushing to speed up deportations of unauthorized immigrants, fulfilling a campaign pledge. Since he signed an executive order on Jan. 25 vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation, there have been reports of widespread roundups by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including the arrests of more than 600 people across the country last week. It was still unclear, however, whether enforcement had significantly increased; unauthorized immigrants were regularly detained and deported during the Obama administration.

Immigrants like Ramirez are living in a precarious legal state. He is one of more than 750,000 people to receive work permits and permission to stay under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, since the program began in 2012. To be eligible, recipients have to prove that they have been in the country since they were children and that they have no serious criminal record.

Trump has given mixed messages about whether he intends to renew the program. During the campaign, he criticized it as an illegal amnesty program, but more recently he said he would “work something out” for the recipients.

Ramirez, who came to the United States from Mexico when he about 7 years old, had not been charged with any crime that would jeopardize his DACA status. Lawyers and advocates said Tuesday that before Ramirez’s case, they had not heard of any DACA permit holder in good standing who had been held in detention.

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