Although President Donald J. Trump has stated that he wouldn’t target young undocumented individuals living in the U.S., recent events suggest otherwise. Just last month, federal agents deported a 23-year-old man, despite his active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.
The so-called “Dreamer” program was created by the Obama administration in 2012.
Given Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric throughout his campaign and throughout his first hundred-or-so days as president, the decision to reconsider DACA may not come as a surprise to some. However, this ‘Dreamer’ deportation case is the first of its kind; no other known deportations have occurred involving an individual with active DACA protections.
The lawyers for Juan Manuel Montes, the Dreamer in question, told USA Today that a Border Control agent stopped their client on the street in Calexico, California in mid-February. The agent asked Montes for documentation, but he could not produce it as requested. Border Control agents reportedly contained Montes and forced him to sign documents without providing him with copies. They also did not allow him to consult with an immigration lawyer or see a judge, according to a recently filed complaint that calls for the government to release reports pertaining to the event.
Just three hours after being stopped and detained, Montes was back in Mexico. Although he was born there, he had not lived outside the U.S. since he was nine years old. After two men attacked him there, Montes says he feared for his life and decided to cross the border back into the United States. However, he voluntarily turned himself in to authorities.
Then, Montes was deported again.
Montes said in a statement: “I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say, but my home is [in the United States]. I miss my job. I miss school. And I want to continue to work toward better opportunities. But most of all, I miss my family, and I have hope that I will be able to go back so I can be with them again.”
Montes sustained a traumatic brain injury as a child, resulting in a cognitive disability. While 28% of traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls and 20% by motor-vehicle crashes, some can be due to physical assaults or other accidents. As a kid, Montes was able to attend special education classes, which then allowed him to graduate high school and enroll in community college. After graduation, he became a welder, but later took a break from welding to earn more money as a farmworker. For many, his path illustrates that a large number of undocumented immigrants are productive members of society.
But according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, that’s not the complete story.
Agency spokesman Ralph DeSio was quick to point out that Montes had a previous conviction for theft. Along with that shoplifting conviction, Montes also has three others for driving without a license.
According to USA Today, that doesn’t make him ineligible for DACA protections. DeSio also noted that Montes’s DACA status expired in 2015; however, his attorneys have provided documents that show that Montes had since renewed his status. That makes this case extremely rare and critical for those who currently benefit from these Obama-era protections.
Even more troubling is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security now says they have no record of Montes being deported the first time. This complicates an already complicated case, as DACA regulations state that those with protections have to seek permission in advance to later re-enter. Since Montes was not allowed to do that when he left the U.S., this loophole could void his DACA protections.
Nora Preciado, attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement, “Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how. The government shouldn’t treat anyone this way — much less someone who has DACA. No one should have to file a lawsuit to find out what happened to them.”
Montes is currently being represented by lawyers from the National Immigration Law Center. They have since filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government.