As It Happens

A DREAMer's nightmare: Undocumented worker with U.S. permit swept up in raid

An undocumented Mexican immigrant living and working in Seattle under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been arrested in what appears to be a first for the Trump administration.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 9. A DREAMer was swept up in a Seattle raid last week. (Bryan Cox/ICE/Reuters)

Read Story Transcript

Even though he was granted permission to live and work in the U.S., a 23-year-old Mexican man was swept up in a raid in his Seattle home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last week.

Daniel Ramirez Medina is believed to be the first person covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program detained under the Donald Trump administration.

But he's not the only undocumented immigrant arrested in the past week. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 680 immigrants have been arrested by ICE agents during that time frame.

Maru Mora Villalpando, an activist and undocumented immigrant in Tacoma, Wash., told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann she was not surprised by the arrest.

"Once this new regime came into office, we predicted that there would be raids happening in a bigger scale, that they would do raids to provoke more fear in our communities, so this was kind of expected," she said.

She is calling for Medina's release, as are his attorneys, who have launched a lawsuit calling the arrest a violation of his constitutional rights. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

ICE agents say Medina is a self-proclaimed gang member — an allegation his lawyers flatly deny. 

Maru Mora Villalpando, centre, speaks to reporters and supporters outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash, with picture of detainees behind her on Nov. 21, 2014. (Manuel Valdes/Associated Press)

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that since 2012, when Barack Obama was president, about 1,500 DACA recipients have had their permits terminated due to a criminal conviction or gang affiliation.

"This case illustrates the work ICE fugitive operations teams perform every day across the country to remove public safety threats from our communities when they encounter them," the statement said.

Lawyer Ethan Dettmer said Medina "unequivocally denies" being in a gang and said ICE agents repeatedly pressured him while in custody to "falsely admit his affiliation."

As for Villalpando? "We don't believe anything ICE says," she told As It Happens.

Fate of DREAMers up in the air

DACA was established under Obama in 2012 and protects from deportation 750,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Participants are often called "DREAMers," in reference to the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors legislation, aimed at setting up a path to permanent residency for immigrants, which failed to pass.

Villalpando says many DREAMers now regret signing up for the program. 

New Yorkers participate in a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policy and the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

"Even when the program began, people felt that they were exposing themselves, they were giving too much information to the government," she said. 

While immigration raids and deportations were common under Obama, undocumented immigrants now live in a heightened state of fear, she said. 

"We have had always a level of fear. Some of us have decided not to be afraid anymore and come out publicly. We have prepared for a really long time for these kind of situations and what we're trying to do is to help the rest of our community not to live in fear but, to actually resist and fight back," she said.

Still, she said she is always careful. Her young adult daughter is well-versed in what she do should if her mom gets detained.

"She and I text each other all the time. When we're not together we're texting each other making sure that each of us know where the other one is," she said. 

Trump has said his administration was devising a policy for dealing with DACA, but has not indicated any concrete plans.

In a news conference on Friday, he said that while some DACA participants are criminals, others are "incredible kids" and that his administration "will be dealing with DACA with heart." 

With files from Reuters

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now