The Corner

Law & the Courts

No, Federal Officials Shouldn’t Misrepresent Gang Affiliations to Facilitate Deportation

ICE agents detain a man during an operation targeting street gangs in Dallas, Tex., in 2014. (Charles Reed/ICE/Handout via Reuters)

Let’s begin with a simple proposition. Two things can be true at once. First, it can be true and right and necessary for federal officials to prioritize gang members for deportation. I have no desire for illegal aliens who are actual members of gangs like MS-13 to stay in the United States. At the same time, we need to be aware that a good thing — the effort to deport illegal alien gang members — can quickly morph into something far more nefarious if it incentivizes unscrupulous federal officials to lie or mislead courts.

And that seems to be exactly what happened in the case of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a DACA recipient who faced deportation in spite of a clean criminal record. Rather than honor his DACA status, the federal government arbitrarily and without evidence declared him “gang-affiliated,” and tried to kick him out of the country — at least until a federal judge stepped in. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate has the details, but I’d encourage you to read the court’s order for yourself. This paragraph stands out:

Most troubling to the Court, is the continued assertion that Mr. Ramirez is gang-affiliated, despite providing no evidence specific to Mr. Ramirez to the Immigration Court in connection with his administrative proceedings, and offering no evidence to this Court to support its assertions four months later. Indeed, the Immigration Judge, after reviewing all evidence submitted by respondent, that Mr. Ramirez was credible, and that he was not in a gang or associated with one. (Citations omitted.)

The court not only ordered Ramirez’s DACA status restored, it enjoined the government from “asserting, adopting, or relying in any proceedings on any statement or record made as of this date purporting to allege or establish that Mr. Ramirez is a gang member, gang affiliated, or a threat to public safety.”

In the polite language of court decisions, this is strong stuff. And while it is just one case, it should serve as a warning for federal officials who may be tempted to circumvent the Constitution or exploit the administration’s enforcement priorities. Allegations aren’t proof, and no person (including DACA recipients) can be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.


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