Today the legal team for Daniel Ramirez filed an emergency motion for his conditional release pending a final determination on his petition for habeas corpus.
Last week District Judge Donohue ordered a series of briefs on the question of whether he can hear a habeas petition on this immigration case, but also ordered the federal government to arrange for Ramirez to get an expedited bond hearing in immigration court. In so doing, he made assurances to Ramirez’s legal team that they wouldn’t be causing problems for themselves by having the case pending in two separate court systems (which is generally disallowed).
Earlier this week, Ramirez’s legal team declined to schedule the bond hearing. They didn’t give much reason for deciding to pass on what seemed like a good opportunity to get him our of detention quickly, other than that their argument wasn’t about the removal proceedings (in which a bond hearing is one step), but about the arrest and detention of Ramirez before the removal proceedings started — and which were begun based upon information gathered during his allegedly illegal detention.
But now it makes more sense, knowing that they intended to go back to the District Court and file an emergency petition to release him. A bond hearing in front of an immigration judge only addresses two issues: whether the detainee is a flight risk, and whether his or her release would create a public safety risk. But both those concerns are relevant to the district court’s decision as to whether to grant a conditional release, so Ramirez’s legal team is saying that they would rather have the District Court evaluate those questions than an immigration judge. That’s not unreasonable, especially since the immigration court is part of the Executive Branch of government, putting it uncomfortably close in the org chart to ICE.
With Judge Donohue still considering whether he can even hear this case due to jurisdictional restrictions, it’s unclear how receptive he will be to an emergency motion. The government was originally due to file its brief on the jurisdiction issue tomorrow, with Ramirez’s reply due early next week and a hearing at the end of the week. But Ramirez’s lawyers have jumped the gun on that schedule and filed a brief with their emergency motion that is essentially the brief they were expected to file next Friday, laying out the legal case for why Donohue has jurisdiction and can hear the case. Late this afternoon, Donohue issued an order extending the government’s filing deadline to 5:00pm Monday and directing it to incorporate its response to the emergency motion into its brief. The rest of next week’s timeline stays the same: Ramirez’s team files their response next Friday, the government files their reply on March 7th, and a hearing is set for March 8th. We can assume that Donohue will rule simultaneously on the jurisdiction issue and the emergency motion.
So far, the government’s case on the merits is weak. The physical evidence consists of a picture of Ramirez’s arm tattoo with no substantiation of the claim that it’s actually associated with any gang, and a form filled out by Ramirez in which he claims he has no gang affiliation but that has clearly and obviously been doctored by ICE staff to make it look like he is admitting to gang affiliation. That leaves the statements from the officers involved in Ramirez’s arrest, detention and interrogation, which contradict public statements by ICE over the past two weeks and which Ramirez directly challenges as false. Given that ICE has already been caught tampering with a legal document, the credibility of their verbal statements is not high. The government has claimed that they have further corroborating evidence of Ramirez’s gang membership, but to-date have refused to produce it despite multiple requests by Ramirez’s legal team.
The wheels of justice will continue to turn slowly. We won’t see anything further from the government until Monday, and Ramirez’s next day in court is almost two weeks away. In the meantime, the emergency order also notes that yesterday ICE notified Ramirez (and his lawyers) that he was to be transferred to the “level 3” section of the Northwest Detention Center where they keep “violent offenders, drug traffickers, or individuals suspected to be a significant threat to national security.” ICE has now backed off that plan, but it still points to the dangers for Ramirez of being held in the Northwest Detention Center beyond the alleged affront to his civil rights.
Stay tuned — more on Monday.