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Lawmakers Protest Arrest of DACA Recipient; ICE Says He Admitted Gang Ties

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security says a DACA beneficiary taken into custody in a Washington state raid was a gang member, while attorneys challenging the arrest say the 23-year-old has no criminal record and was coerced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to saying he had gang ties.

Now lawmakers are stepping in to rally on behalf of Daniel Ramirez Medina, who was accepted in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2014 and received a renewal last year.

"DACA recipients have been vetted," Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said. "The U.S. government has confirmed they are not a threat to our country."

"It's disturbing to imagine the type of fear being felt by undocumented mothers and fathers who now have to make room in the shadows of society for their DACA children," he added.

Ramirez was brought illegally to the United States from Mexico when he was 7 years old, and has a 3-year-old son born in the U.S. On Feb. 10, according to a court filing from his lawyer, he was arrested when ICE agents served a warrant on Ramirez's father.

DHS said Wednesday that Ramirez, "a gang member, was encountered at a residence in Des Moines, Washington, during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon."

"He was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was transferred to the Northwest Detention Center to await the outcome of removal proceedings before an immigration judge," the department said, adding that since the start of DACA "approximately 1,500 recipients have had their deferred action terminated due to a criminal conviction, gang affiliation, or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation."

Ramirez was reportedly asked if he was in the country illegally, and told the agents he had a work permit. His brother was also in the home at the time and not arrested.

ICE said Tuesday that Ramirez was taken into custody “based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.” Attorney Ethan Dettmer, who said he believes this is the first case of a DACA recipient being detained by ICE, told Reuters that his client "unequivocally denies" gang affiliation.

"While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation," said Dettmer. "The statement issued tonight by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not accurate.”

The federal government had until this morning to explain why Ramirez is still in custody, according to BuzzFeed, with a federal magistrate also wanting answers on whether the detainee has been moved into removal proceedings.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday arguing that Ramirez's arrest "would not be the first time that ICE has targeted an individual for enforcement based on unfounded allegations." She demanded to know how Ramirez's reported gang admission was obtained.