Despite living in the United States since he was nine years old and supposedly being granted protections twice under the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old man from California, was the first DREAMer deported under Trump to Mexico, according to a USA Today report. In the fallout from that night, Montes filed a complaint against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for allegedly "unlawfully withholding information" related to his deportation, per a statement from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), who is representing Montes in the case:
[Montes] filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after U.S. immigration officials failed to provide any documentation to explain the legal basis for sending him to Mexico, even after his legal counsel contacted Border Patrol and requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security later stated to USA Today that they couldn't confirm details of Montes' deportation. Spokeswoman Jenny Burke also told USA Today that "the department had no record of Montes renewing his DACA status after it expired in 2015." However, Montes' attorneys produced a copy of his work authorization card claiming that DACA should protect him until 2018.
According to USA Today's report, Montes was supposedly approached by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on the evening of February 17. Because he'd left his wallet in a friend's car, he didn't have ID or proof of DACA protection with him. He also claimed that the agents wouldn't allow him to retrieve those documents. He was allegedly sent to Mexico just hours later. The supposed incident occurred just days before the Trump administration's Feb. 21 announcement that it would leave DACA protections, which affect undocumented individuals who entered the country as children, intact.
However, Burke's statement tells a separate story. She claimed the Department of Homeland Security had no record of arresting Montes in California. "Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez was apprehended by the Calexico Station Border Patrol after illegally entering the US by climbing over the fence in downtown Calexico," she wrote. "He was arrested by (Border Patrol) just minutes after he made his illegal entry and admitted under oath during the arrest interview that he had entered illegally."
For Montes, he said he felt he was "forced out" during his interaction with agents "because [he] was nervous and didn't know what to do or say." Living in the United States since he was nine, he studied welding at a local community college, helped support his family by working in agricultural fields in California, and had an active work permit, his lawyers said. They also add that after suffering "a traumatic brain injury as a child" he "has a cognitive disability."
"But my home is there," Montes said. “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.”
As the Trump administration continues to promote policies and sentiments that have immigration activists concerned, Montes' case is absolutely one to keep an eye on.