Manuel Montes, the first Dreamer deported since Trump’s inauguration, is at the center of a thorny legal battle. This 23-year-old Mexican citizen was detained on February 19 after illegally crossing the southern border. He was then deported even if he had a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) work permit valid through January 2018. At the time of deportation, DHS officials claim they were not aware of his DACA status.
The DACA program was enacted by the Obama administration to deliver working permits and prevent the deportation of undocumented immigrants which had arrived in the USA as a child. The Trump administration hasn’t canceled the DACA program yet.
Montes is now suing the Department of Homeland Security. The key factor to be established is whether or not he originally left the country voluntarily. He claims that he was first deported on February 18 by an agent who took him to the border and sent him into Mexico. DHS officials claim instead that they have no evidence of such deportation. He was rather expelled only once on February 20, after apprehension at the border, and that he never stated that he was a DACA recipient.
Attorney General Jeff Session has also clarified that the DACA status does not guarantee freedom from deportation.
“DACA enrollees are not being targeted. I don’t know why this individual was picked up. [But] everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported. So people come here and they stay here a few years and somehow, they think that they’re not subject to being deported. Well, they are.”
DACA recipients are not supposed to leave the country without seeking permission from the government. If they do so, they lose their DACA status.
Two Different Stories That Will Be Examined by a Federal Judge
Montes claims he was waiting for a ride in the southern California city of Calexico on February 17 when he was approached by a Customs and Border Protection officer. Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car and couldn’t produce any identification or proof of his DACA status. The agent didn’t allow him to retrieve the documents and, within three hours, Montes claims he was deported back to Mexico.
DHS officials state there is no evidence or record of this first deportation. Yet they know that he scaled the border wall the next day and was caught by a border patrol. Initially, DHS officials stated that they were not aware that Montes had a valid DACA status, but now they have admitted he has.
Montes had four criminal convictions — one for shoplifting and three for driving without a license. Yet these offenses are not serious enough to disqualify him from DACA.
Quick Deporting of Dreamers With Expired DACA Status
The case will be tried by the same judge who oversaw the lawsuit against Trump University. It is a coincidental assignment.
No court date has been set yet. The case is going to be very relevant from a political standpoint. So far the Trump Administration has been lenient on Dreamers and has claimed it is not actively targeting them for deportation. Yet during the campaign, Trump had promised to end the DACA program as soon as he got into office and some of his supporters are pushing in that direction. For sure, DHS has been quick in deporting Dreamers with expired DACA status.
Obama deported an average of 7 Dreamers with expired DACA status every month. Trump has deported 43 former DACA recipients in his first month in office, alone.