As a small-ish firm, our capacity for long term pro-bono engagements is extremely limited. This year, we decided to direct that capacity toward supporting DREAMer Daniel Ramirez Medina’s case, and I think it’s important to explain why.
Daniel Ramirez Medina was born in Mexico but grew up in California, after his parents brought him across the border as a young child. Since 2014, Daniel has been enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows him to work legally in the US and frees him from the threat of deportation.
On February 10th, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Daniel’s father, who is undocumented, then came into his family’s home and arrested Daniel, solely because he was born in Mexico. He has been in federal detention since that day, and the Department of Homeland Security refuses to release him, even though he is protected as a “DREAMer” — a beneficiary of the DACA program. Daniel has been through three rounds of federal background checks as part of his application and participation in the program, and he has no criminal record.
RALLY got engaged because we believe President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants is unAmerican and antithetical to our democratic values, and targeting DREAMers is particularly noxious. We looked for ways to contribute where we could make a difference. Impact litigation communications is a RALLY expertise and we saw a legal dream team taking shape on Daniel’s behalf, so engaging on his case was an easy decision.
We know from years of experience doing communications in support of court cases that not just press attention, but the nature of press attention is critical to shaping public opinion around an issue. We know from working on cases that have gone all the way to the Supreme Court that managing a big legal story isn’t just about servicing press requests, it’s about helping to shape the way the story is told over the long term. It’s about building a narrative and maintaining momentum between high profile moments through deeper stories and unexplored angles. And it’s about finding opportunities to personalize the story in order to get beyond legalistic rulings to the harm or relief at the end of the case.
Even as seasoned litigation communications professionals, some challenges we’ve seen in Daniel’s case have been eye opening. We’ve had reporters tell us that government representatives were feeding them falsehoods about Daniel (falsehoods we challenged and that to date have never been offered in court as evidence of wrongdoing). We’ve had to find ways to make Daniel familiar to the public, even as he’s held in isolation from us and the press. And we’ve had to help Daniel and his family and team navigate the realities of a teenager who has been online during an age of social media, with all of the image management that entails.
We have been able to leverage the reputation of our firm as straightforward, honest brokers of the facts in litigation stories to convince reporters to treat the government’s allegations with a skeptical eye and be open to the full story of what’s at stake here, for Daniel, his family and our country.
A few weeks ago, as the Trump administration was launching headlong down this path, announcing travel bans, refugee bans, and stepped up activity by ICE and Customs and Border Protection, RALLY’s President released a statement of our firm’s dedication to diversity and inclusion, and our commitment to our diverse RALLY family.
Our work with the team fighting for Daniel’s freedom is part of that commitment. We are proud of the work we’ve done to date on this case and are determined to see it through to Daniel’s release and a decision that could affect 750,000 DACA recipients in this country. We’re furious it’s necessary, we’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute, and so proud of our RALLY team members dedicating their time, energy, brains and hearts to it.
Lara Bergthold is a Principal at RALLY, a communications firm that works to influence the way people think about and respond to political and social issues.