Last month, the Obama administration released new deportation guidelines clearing up long-established yet frequently ignored prosecutorial discretion procedures. According to the new guidelines, the Department of Homeland Security is to focus on the deportations of violent criminal immigrants only. Young students who had been brought into the country as children through no choice of their own were to be tossed out of the system, as were other sympathetic immigrants such as the parents of U.S. citizen children, and those who have law-abidingly lived in the country for many years.
Last week, a new case broke, which was alarming to many of us working in immigrant advocacy.
Matias Ramos is a cofounder of the United We DREAM network and one of the most visible DREAM activists in the nation. Born in Argentina and brought to the U.S. as a preteen, he graduated from UCLA in 2008, where he wrote featured columns for campus newspaper the Daily Bruin. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, and received recognitions from the Clinton Global Initiative, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the Mario Savio Foundation.
In 2010, Matias was arrested in an airport after attending a national gathering of immigrant youth. ICE released him with a work permit and an order of supervision: he could go home and get a job as a Newman Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies (where he has worked for the last year and a half), but he was required to regularly check in with a field office in Fairfax, Virginia.
In mid-September, during a regularly scheduled check-up, Matias was told that he’d been placed on ICE’s Intense Supervision and Appearance Program (ISAP), and that he was going to be deported. ISAP clapped an ankle bracelet on him, which he was forced to wear at all hours. Recharging it meant tethering himself to a wall outlet for three hours each day. ISAP came to his home to supervise him, and gave itself permission to search through his personal belongings.
After a media outcry, ICE retreated and removed the ankle bracelet. However, despite the new deportation guidelines, and the fact that he is clearly not an ICE priority, Matias’ deportation remains scheduled for October 4.
With the new deportation guidelines, the Obama administration announced that it was going to pursue an immigration policy that made sense — one that didn’t punish children or tear families apart. The United We DREAM network is, with this case among many others, reminding them of their promise.