Ad­vo­cates for Dream­ers find du­bi­ous de­ported poster boy

Montes car­ries record of en­coun­ters with law

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND S.A. MILLER

For weeks, im­mi­grant rights groups had searched for the right case to high­light their bat­tle against Pres­i­dent Trump’s get-tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. They think they’ve found it this week in Juan Manuel Montes-Bo­jorquez, a Dreamer who went public with his story that he was de­ported de­spite hav­ing been ap­proved un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tem­po­rary amnesty.

Top Democrats in Wash­ing­ton seized on the case, with House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi call­ing Mr. Montes out­stand­ing and say­ing his de­por­ta­tion was a dis­grace to Amer­i­can values. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illi­nois Demo­crat, de­manded ex­pla­na­tions, say­ing Homeland Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly had per­son­ally promised last month that no­body ap­proved un­der Pres­i­dent Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) pol­icy would be de­ported by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists ral­lied out­side a Homeland Se­cu­rity Depart­ment of­fice in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day, de­mand­ing that Mr. Montes be reim­ported from Mex­ico.

“We will stand up to racist agents that con­tinue to tar­get our com­mu­nity,” United We Dream

com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer Deyanira Al­dana said though a bull­horn as she led the protest.

But the case is turn­ing out to be much more com­pli­cated, and as Homeland Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials tell it, Mr. Montes’ sit­u­a­tion is not the clear-cut case of a clean-cut kid be­ing ousted for no good rea­son.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials say Mr. Montes had been ap­proved for DACA through early next year but broke terms of the pro­gram by leav­ing the U.S. with­out per­mis­sion. He was nabbed by Bor­der Pa­trol agents Feb. 19 while try­ing to sneak back into the coun­try.

He also had sev­eral run-ins with the law, in­clud­ing a shoplift­ing con­vic­tion last sum­mer.

“The ad­vo­cacy groups were ab­so­lutely sali­vat­ing, smelling blood in the wa­ter and ready to at­tack the ad­min­is­tra­tion for be­ing overzeal­ous with en­force­ment and for hav­ing the au­dac­ity to de­port some­one with DACA, whom they be­lieve should be im­mune from de­por­ta­tion,” said Jes­sica Vaughan, pol­icy stud­ies direc­tor at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which pushes for stricter im­mi­gra­tion lim­its. “This case seems to prove the old adage, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly isn’t true.’”

Ten­sions over Mr. Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies have been build­ing for months as im­mi­grants an­tic­i­pated a crack­down.

The pres­i­dent’s tough talk has al­ready dried up the flow of mi­grants across the south­west­ern bor­der, with rates at their low­est point in 40 years. But il­le­gal im­mi­grants inside the U.S. have hun­kered down and vowed to re­sist ef­forts to de­port them.

Nowhere has that been more true than for the Dream­ers, the young adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants long seen as the most sym­pa­thetic fig­ures in the de­bate. Usu­ally brought to the U.S. as chil­dren, many of them don’t even have mem­o­ries of their home coun­tries.

Af­ter ef­forts to grant them le­gal sta­tus stalled in Congress in 2010, Mr. Obama moved in 2012 to use ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity to cre­ate the DACA pro­gram, grant­ing a re­new­able two-year stay of de­por­ta­tion and work per­mits to those who had worked to­ward high school diplo­mas and kept out of ma­jor crim­i­nal trou­ble. More than 750,000 im­mi­grants were ap­proved for the pro­gram un­der Mr. Obama.

The Dream­ers have built them­selves into a po­tent po­lit­i­cal force, earn­ing speak­ing roles at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion and pres­sur­ing law­mak­ers for fa­vor­able treat­ment.

In­deed, they have even forced a re­ver­sal from Mr. Trump, who dur­ing the cam­paign said he would re­peal the DACA pro­gram but who now takes a softer line. He said he wants to find a so­lu­tion that will sat­isfy Dream­ers.

While most other il­le­gal im­mi­grants are once again tar­gets for de­por­ta­tion, Dream­ers re­main gen­er­ally out of bounds, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say. DACA re­cip­i­ents snared in im­mi­gra­tion raids have even been let go.

Ac­tivists, though, had been search­ing for a case that would show Mr. Trump is break­ing his prom­ises to Dream­ers.

They thought they found one ear­lier this year in Daniel Ramirez Me­d­ina, a 23-year-old snared in a raid tar­get­ing his fa­ther, also an il­le­gal im­mi­grant. Im­mi­gra­tion agents ac­cused the young man of gang ties, which would in­val­i­date his DACA sta­tus, but his at­tor­neys said the ev­i­dence was fab­ri­cated. He was even­tu­ally re­leased, though his case is still mak­ing its way through im­mi­gra­tion courts.

Ac­tivists then seized on the case of an­other Dreamer, a 22-year-old woman in Mis­sis­sippi who al­lowed her DACA sta­tus to lapse. But she, too, was re­leased by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties last month.

This week, the ac­tivists ze­roed in on Mr. Montes, the 23-year-old who was de­ported back to Mex­ico de­spite hav­ing his DACA sta­tus re­newed last year.

In an in­ter­view with USA To­day, Mr. Montes said he was first de­ported Feb. 18 af­ter an agent ac­costed him and asked him ques­tions, then re­fused to let him get his wal­let where he had proof of his DACA sta­tus.

Mr. Montes said he was so frus­trated with be­ing sent to Mex­ico that he tried to sneak back into the U.S. the next day, but he was quickly ar­rested and de­ported again.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the agency that over­sees the Bor­der Pa­trol, gave a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ver­sion of events. The agency first said Mr. Montes had fallen out of DACA sta­tus in 2015, then re­canted and ac­knowl­edged that he had been ap­proved through 2018.

But the agency dis­puted most of the rest of Mr. Montes’ tale. CBP said there was no record of a Feb. 18 en­counter and de­por­ta­tion, just the Feb. 19 ar­rest af­ter Mr. Montes was caught sneak­ing into the U.S. That meant he had left the coun­try to go to Mex­ico with­out get­ting per­mis­sion — a breach of DACA.

“Dur­ing [Mr. Montes’] de­ten­tion and ar­rest by the United States Bor­der Pa­trol on Fe­bru­ary 19, he ad­mit­ted to agents that he had il­le­gally en­tered the United States and was ar­rested,” the agency said in a state­ment.

CBP said it couldn’t ver­ify Mr. Montes’ con­tention that he had been in the U.S. since age 9. The agency said its first en­counter with him was in 2010, when he tried to en­ter with­out au­tho­riza­tion and in­stead ac­cepted a quick de­por­ta­tion.

It’s un­clear how he man­aged to be ap­proved for DACA in 2014. The terms of DACA re­quire il­le­gal im­mi­grants to have lived in the U.S. con­tin­u­ously since 2007.

CBP said Mr. Montes never men­tioned DACA sta­tus af­ter he was caught by the Bor­der Pa­trol. Even if it had come up, the agency said, he vi­o­lated the terms and was sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion.

Mr. Montes also had sev­eral con­vic­tions on his record for driv­ing with­out a li­cense, and a shoplift­ing con­vic­tion from last sum­mer.

Mr. Montes’ de­fend­ers dis­missed the in­con­sis­ten­cies in his story and said they had no qualms about mak­ing him the poster child for their cam­paign against Mr. Trump’s poli­cies.

“At the end of the day, this is a young man who grew up in the United States since he was 9,” said Juli­eta Garibay, cam­paign direc­tor for United We Dream. “We know the kind of in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics that ICE and CBP uses.

“He had DACA. He should not be de­ported. Pe­riod,” said Ms. Garibay.

But Ms. Vaughan said im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates are over­selling DACA, treat­ing it as a form of le­gal sta­tus with cer­tain rights, when even the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said the pro­gram was dis­cre­tionary and ap­provals could be re­voked.

Ms. Vaughan said leav­ing the coun­try with­out per­mis­sion has al­ways been grounds for re­vok­ing DACA sta­tus.

“The ad­vo­cacy groups and news re­porters should do their home­work be­fore mak­ing him a poster boy for ei­ther DACA or op­po­si­tion to Trump’s poli­cies,” she said. “They could well have egg on their face af­ter this one.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

NO DREAM: Juan Manuel Montes, 23, had le­gal sta­tus un­der the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, but au­thor­i­ties say he broke terms of the law.

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