Trump administration threatens to deport a DACA recipient

Experts disagree about what it means for students

Daniel Ramirez, a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant, is being detained and threatened with deportation—despite the fact that he has a valid work permit and protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Learn more about DACA and higher ed

The event is the first of its kind to take place since President Trump's inauguration, and it is raising fears among undocumented students and workers across the country, Katharine Mangan reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The DACA program began as an executive order in 2012, when former President Barack Obama declared that certain undocumented immigrants pursuing an education or working without a criminal record would be able to stay in the country on renewable, two-year terms.

Trump campaigned on the promise that he would repeal this order and send all undocumented immigrants out of the country, whether they were protected by DACA or not. 

Read more: Protestors demand sanctuary campuses

In the first few weeks of Trump's presidency, the administration focused on immigrants with criminal records. But in the wake of Ramirez's arrest, students are fearful that the administration may broaden its efforts.

Carlos Rodriguez, an undocumented student in his final semester at Seattle University, says, "This is becoming a very real thing for a lot of us. It's happening."

According to Ramirez' attorney, Mark Rosenbaum, the Department of Justice alleges that Ramirez is affiliated with two gangs. But Rosenbaum calls the claims "utterly implausible and wholly fabricated."

Ramirez has a three-year-old child and was working to save up money to get his degree. The agents who arrested Ramirez "informed him that he would be arrested, detained, and deported anyway because he was 'not born in this country,'" according to the petition Ramirez' lawyers filed with the court.

Some officials are calling Ramirez' arrest an isolated incident.

"Hopefully, this arrest is simply a mistake and not a dark harbinger for worse to come," says Rosenbaum. The Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, which is helping with Ramirez' representation, tweeted a similar message to their followers.

But other officials see the arrest as a sign that Trump's administration will put more pressure on DACA recipients.

According to Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University's Law School contributing to Ramirez' representation, the Trump administration is sending a "dismal and frightening" message to DACA recipients and "telling them that this government isn't committed to living up to the promises the Obama administration made to these recipients to induce them to come out from under the shadows."

Despite fears, there is one glimmer of hope for DACA recipients—a bipartisan bill called the Bridge Act. If it were to pass, the bill would allow "people who are eligible for or who have received work authorization and temporary relief from deportation through DACA to continue living in the U.S. with permission from the federal government," according to the National Immigration Law Center.

But in the meantime, undocumented students and working DACA recipients are in limbo, and they are afraid.

(Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/16; National Immigration Law Center site, accessed 2/16; McNerthney, KIRO7, 2/17).

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