Lawsuit filed after immigration raids detain dreamer; immigrants with no criminal record arrested

The Trump administration kicked off its far-reaching crackdown on undocumented immigrants over the weekend

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published February 15, 2017 2:00PM (EST)

 (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)
(Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

Two of the nation's top lawyers filed a lawsuit Monday after the first large-scale raid conducted under the Trump administration swept up a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant who had come to the United States as a child and has no criminal record.

Reuters reported that Daniel Ramirez — who was granted a work permit under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program twice — was taken into custody on Friday at his father's home in Seattle. (Daniel Ramirez is the father of a 3-year-old U.S. citizen.)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers initially arrived to arrest Ramirez's father. Reuters continued:

When they entered, they asked Ramirez if he was in the country legally, and Ramirez said he had a work permit, the lawsuit stated.

ICE agents took Ramirez to a processing center in Seattle and he again disclosed his DACA work permit, the lawsuit stated.

"It doesn't matter, because you weren't born in this country," one of the agents said, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint goes on to claim that ICE agents took Ramirez’s wallet, which contained his work permit that clearly identified him as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient with a “C-33” code.

With the number of immigrant detainees already at historic levels, more than 680 additional undocumented immigrants have been arrested recently in several major U.S. cities — including some so-called sanctuary cities. Although the Trump administration has avoided calls to release a detailed breakdown of who has been detained in the raids, it verified that only about 75 percent of these individuals had been convicted of any criminal activity. But at least one Department of Homeland Security official told The Washington Post that anyone who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa counted as a “criminal alien.”

Ramirez has filed a complaint in federal court against his detention; according to the Reuters story, he wasstill being held at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center as of Tuesday night. Ramirez's lawyers, Ted Boutrous and Laurence Tribe, claim that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals dreamers were given the "reasonable expectation" that they would not be arrested and deported.

There have also been reports that ICE agents broke with years of Obama-administration policy by making “collateral arrests" of undocumented immigrants who happened to be at places being raided, even if a warrant did not exist for them. Immigrant activist group CASA de Maryland's Maria Fernanda Durand told Vox that instead of attempting to enter houses to serve warrants, ICE agents not wearing uniforms waited outside and arrested people when they left for work. Vox noted:

In North Carolina, a husband left his house to start a car, only to be handcuffed by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. In Los Angeles, a man was arrested at the Walmart where he worked. In Garden City, Kansas, whole apartments of people were fingerprinted and taken into custody.

During a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump praised Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and said the raids were fulfilling a campaign promise.

Hard-line anti-immigration activists have also rushed to applaud the raids, as private prison companies line up to profit from Trump's expansive crackdown.

Besides announcing that he will triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, Trump recently signed an executive order authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to “allocate all legally available resources” to “establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.”

Gearing up to detain more people

Homeland Security's 2017 budget request had already sought $7 billion to pay more than 40,000 immigration enforcement officers. According to a conservative estimate by McClatchy, Trump's order will mean that the department will have to triple its $2.2 billion detention budget.

Last week the CEO of the nation's largest private prison operator eagerly announced that his company, CoreCivic (Corrections Corporation of America until a recent rebranding) could provide the additional detention facilities ordered by Trump.

“When coupled with the above-average rate crossings along the Southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available in our existing real estate portfolio, as well as an increased demand for our detention facility design, development and facility maintenance expertise,” Damon Hininger said during an earnings call with investors on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Stocks for private prison companies have surged in the two weeks since the president signed his executive order. The day after Trump was elected, CoreCivic saw its stock price jump 43 percent, while the U.S.' second largest private prison operator, GEO Group, saw its share price rise 30 percent, Businessweek reported. (GEO Group donated $150,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC during the campaign.)

“This is an enormous boondoggle for the private prison industry,” Carl Takei, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, recently told the Los Angeles Times. “The people that will benefit from these executive orders are not American taxpayers but corporations that are making a killing off of jailing asylum seekers and other immigrants.”

The projected cost of immigrant detention under Trump’s plan, according to the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, is $35.7 billion, plus another $13.4 billion for “aggressive interior enforcement” and $11.3 billion for legal processing.

About 62 percent of detainees held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2015 were held in private, for-profit facilities, according to Quartz. Private prison companies offer a much lower cost to house inmates, compared to federally run Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. That profit motive has often led to the deterioration of safety conditions in detention centers.

In August 2016 President Barack Obama's administration announced it would "decline to renew" private prisons' contracts or "substantially reduce" their scope, citing a report by the Office of the Inspector General that found private prisons were more dangerous than those run by the prison bureau.

Despite the move, ICE signed a contract late last year to convert a 1,116-bed New Mexico correction facility into an immigration detention center and recently extended a contract with CoreCivic for a 2,400-bed facility in Texas.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also looks favorably on the controversial industry. GEO Group recently hired two former Sessions staffers onto its D.C. lobbying team.

“The immigration system already lacks rigorous oversight and transparency,” the ACLU's Takei told the Los Angels Times. “And now there’s this perfect storm — a push to rapidly expand the system, a lack of existing oversight and the profit motive driving these companies.”

But supporters of Trump and his rhetoric against undocumented immigrants during his campaign argue that the president is merely fulfilling his promise. “This is a return to normalcy, if you will, rather than some kind of radical departure,” the ultraconservative executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies Mark Krikorian told Politico on Monday. Calling on the Trump administration to implement “more systematic efforts,” Krikorian warned that the weekend's raids were only "a start."

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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