By Gene Johnson
TACOMA — A Mexican man who has spent more than six weeks in immigration detention despite his participation in a program designed to prevent the deportation of those brought to the U.S. illegally as children was released from custody Wednesday pending deportation proceedings.
A smiling Daniel Ramirez Medina, 24, hugged his brother in the lobby of a detention center as he was freed, then hugged him again for the news cameras outside. He spoke to reporters briefly in Spanish, thanking his supporters, and later issued a written statement in English through his lawyers.
“I’m so happy to be reunited with my family today and can’t wait to see my son,” it said. “This has been a long and hard 46 days, but I’m so thankful for the support that I’ve gotten from everyone who helped me and for the opportunity to live in such an amazing country.
“I know that this isn’t over, but I’m hopeful for the future, for me and for the hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers who love this country like I do.”
Judge John Odell in Tacoma approved freeing Ramirez until his next immigration court hearing.
Immigration agents arrested him last month in suburban Seattle, saying he acknowledged affiliating with gangs. Officials then revoked his protected status.
Ramirez adamantly denies any gang ties or making any such admission. He spent 40 minutes answering questions from prosecutors during a two-hour hearing Tuesday, repeatedly denying any gang connections, his attorney, Mark Rosenbaum, said.
Rose Richeson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, referred a request for comment to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which did not return an email seeking comment Tuesday.
Immigration agents arrested Ramirez on Feb. 10 at an apartment complex where they had gone to arrest his father, a previously deported felon.
Ramirez, who came to the U.S. at 7, has no criminal record and twice passed background checks to participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country and work.
Immigration officials have started deportation proceedings against him.