Twenty-three-year-old Juan Manuel Montes is authorized to work in the U.S., has lived here for 14 years, and is theoretically protected from deportation. But according to a federal lawsuit filed today by his lawyers, Montes was deported back in February, in what ThinkProgress reports may be the first documented case of its kind.
Montes is a DREAMer, aka a beneficiary of the Barack Obama-era DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which provides temporary relief from deportation. DACA provides work authorization to those who moved to the country as minors and haven’t committed crimes, subject to renewal every two years. Montes has been approved for DACA twice, and was arrested despite having a valid DACA status and employment authorization.
DACA remains in place under the Trump administration, but despite Trump’s promise to treat DREAMers with “great heart,” Montes was arrested and deported back to Mexico on Feb. 18.
As first reported by USA Today, Montes was about to take a taxi home from seeing a friend in Calexico, California, when he was approached by a customs and border patrol agent and asked “in an aggressive manner” to show identification. Montes wasn’t carrying his ID or proof of DACA status at the time, reportedly having left his wallet in a friend’s car, and so he was driven to the nearest point of entry, questioned, and forced to sign documents. Within three hours, an officer had walked him to the U.S. border with Mexico and “physically removed him from the United States.”
Montes has a cognitive impairment from a childhood brain injury, per the New York Times, and alleges in the suit that he was not allowed to speak to an immigration lawyer.
“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],” Montes said in a statement released by the National Immigration Law Center. “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.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security claims in its own statement that Montes’s DACA status expired in 2015.
Update 4/19, 2:45 p.m.: While Montes’s lawyers say he was deported by Border Patrol on Feb. 18, the Department of Homeland Security now says that never happened, according to CNN.
“Mr. Montes-Bojorquez lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advanced parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the US Border Patrol on Feb. 19, 2017,” said DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke in a statement reported by CNN.
DHS officials said when Montes attempted to re-enter the United States on Feb. 19, Border Patrol saw that he had last left without authorization and voided his DACA status.