In January, President Trump held an impromptu press conference at the White House and relayed a message to the 750,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, telling them they had nothing to fear despite the fact that he was chipping away at the Obama-era program.
“Tell them not to worry,” Trump said. In an appearance on ABC News in the same month, Trump reiterated the message. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” he said. “I do have a big heart.
But that reassurance didn’t matter for 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who was detained by federal agents back in February. According to USA Today, Montes was twice granted deportation protections under the DACA program, but within three hours of his encounter with border patrol agents, he was back in Mexico after living in the U.S. since he was 9-years-old.
He had become the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status to be deported by the Trump administration’s ramped up immigration policies. Immigrant advocates say that Montes’ case is proof that the Trump administration has no intention of following through with the President’s reassurances. Montes’ DACA status was supposed to keep him protected through 2018.
“We’ve seen Trump and (Department of Homeland Security Secretary) John Kelly say, ‘The DACA program is alive and well.’ We’ve seen (House Speaker) Paul Ryan look straight into the eyes of one of our members and say, ‘You have nothing to worry about,'” DACA enrollee Greisa Martinez told USA Today. “And then this happens.”
After USA TODAY published the story, the Department of Homeland Security — which had refused a request for comment for 24 hours — said it could not confirm details of Montes’ deportation. Spokeswoman Jenny Burke said the department had no record of him renewing his DACA status after it expired in 2015, even though Montes’ attorneys provided a copy of his work authorization card that showed his DACA status was valid through 2018.
A group of attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Tuesday requesting that a judge force Customs and Border Protection to release details of the agent’s encounter with Montes.
The shy Montes was never a poster child for the DACA program. He wasn’t his high school’s valedictorian or a prominent advocate for fellow DREAMers.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child that left him with learning disabilities that meant a constant struggle to keep up in school and everyday conversations, according to Hincapié. Despite those challenges, he made it through special education courses and graduated high school in 2013. He started taking welding classes at a Southern California community college and paid for it by picking crops in California and Arizona.
Court records show he has four convictions: one for shoplifting in January 2016, and three for driving without a license, most recently three months ago.
Those convictions are not serious enough to disqualify him from DACA protections, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that approves DACA applications.
After being assaulted and robbed in Mexico, Montes tried to return to the U.S. illegally. He was immediately captured by federal agent and deported. He has reconnected with his estranged father in Mexico and reportedly has found work.
You can read USA Today’s full report on the story here.
Featured image via Flickr