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Leading Activist’s Pending Deportation To Test New Obama Immigration Policy


Matias Ramos, co-founder of United We Dream, speaks about his experiences with ICE and the Secure Community initiative during a rally. Ramos was recently forced to wear an ankle monitor.

CREDIT: Flickr / TalkMediaNews

A deportation order placed against activist Matias Ramos this month sheds bright light on Immigration Customs and Enforcement practices that continue to target individuals not identified as “high priority” for removal.

During his weekly check-in at the ICE office in Fairfax, Va., (a forty-five minute commute from his home in Washington, DC), the 25-year-old Ramos was told he would be forced out of the United States in less than two weeks. He left the Sept. 13 meeting with an electronic monitoring bracelet strapped around his left ankle, which he was then required to wear for 24-hour surveillance.

“I felt denigrated,” he told Campus Progress. “I honestly believed that the Legal Work Permit that I was given meant that having used their previous discretion they would continue to do so. I’m still not done processing this experience.”

From his days as an undergraduate at the University of California—Los Angeles, Ramos has played a critical role in advancing the youth-led movement to pass the federal DREAM Act.

As co-founder of United We DREAM, the largest network of immigrant youth-led organizations in the country, it wasn’t long before an online petition generated thousands of calls and signatures demanding a stay on his deportation. His monitoring bracelet has since been removed and he’s been granted a six-month stay. Beyond that, it’s still unclear what direction his case will head in.

Ramos’ high-profile pending deportation will test a policy recently announced by the Obama administration to drop cases not identified as “high-priority” for removal.

In response to growing pressure from activists and advocates demanding meaningful administrative fixes to our country’s broken immigration system, officials announced the creation of a joint-committee between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice last month. The committee is tasked with reviewing 300,000 backlogged deportation cases to drop those who have not committed any serious crimes and are not high priority for removal.

The new policy is a good-faith effort by the Department of Homeland Security to expend its resources only on individuals who have committed serious crimes. However, Ramos’ case makes it evident that clearer, more transparent guidelines on who is being targeted still need to be made concrete for this policy to be effective and meaningful. The joint-committee has yet to act on such guidelines.

“The policy was announced on Aug. 18 and there is yet to be any meat on the bones,” says Angela Kelley, vice-president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, the parent organization of Campus Progress. “What’s especially troubling is that there’s disparate treatment of people based where they live [and how individual ICE agents handle cases]; the stakes are high and they’re dragging their feet.”

This was certain true for Paula Godoy, a Virginia mother of three who was granted a six-month stay and had her ankle bracelet removed only hours before she was expected to be deported to Guatemala.

“We’re still fighting the cases one by one,” Ramos tells us. “DHS is a complicated bureaucracy … the case-by-case review is not really a solution when you think about it.”

Campus Progress will continue to follow Ramos’ case, and the cases of other DREAMers being unfairly targeted despite the Obama administration’s recently announced administrative fixes.

Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie.

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