More than 14 years ago, Julio Ramirez fled to the United States to escape persecution in Guatemala. Since then, Ramirez built a life in East Boston: He has long volunteered for numerous community organizations, started his own construction company, and bonded with his sister and nieces. He has received letters of support from Congressman Michael E. Capuano, Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley, and Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell.
In August 2018, police charged Ramirez after a minor car accident that did not involve injuries. Ramirez denied the charge. ICE agents arrested him in the parking lot of the Cambridge District Court shortly after he appeared for a pretrial conference. He has since been held in civil immigration detention in Boston.
Ramirez was due back in court on November 13, 2018. The Cambridge District Court issued multiple orders that he be transported to the courthouse on that day – but nobody brought him to court.
After he missed his hearing, the ACLU of Massachusetts – together with Foley Hoag LLP – filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ramirez, urging a federal court to require ICE and its contracted state custodians to transport him to his upcoming trial in state court.
Days after the lawsuit was filed, the government agreed to transport Ramirez to his trial. Ramirez was brought to the courthouse on December 5, 2018, and was found not guilty of the charge associated with the minor car accident.
The ACLU lawsuit follows similar legal action in early 2018, when ICE prevented Samuel Pensamiento from attending state court proceedings. Since 2017, ICE has persistently failed to ensure detainees like Ramirez and Pensamiento are brought to criminal proceedings in the Massachusetts courts. This failure infringes immigration detainees’ constitutional rights to be present at their own court proceedings and to defend themselves against accusations that can have significant personal and immigration consequences. It also disrupts the orderly operation of the Massachusetts criminal legal system.
- Boston Globe: Criminal defendants in ICE custody haven’t always been able to have their day in court. That’s about to change
- WGBH: ICE Detainees Can Now Answer State Charges
Photo from left to right: attorney Jennifer Velarde, attorney Lauren Weitzen, Julio Ramirez, attorney Dan McFadden, and attorney Chris Hart.