HOMELAND SECURITY REVERSES ITSELF
Young man in USA TODAY report had valid protective status till 2018
Department says DREAMer had valid protective status,
The Department of Homeland Security reversed itself Wednesday and said a young man identified by USA TODAY as the first DREAMer deported by the Trump administration had valid protective status despite its earlier claim.
On Tuesday, the department said its records showed protective status for Juan Manuel Montes, 23, expired in 2015. On Wednesday, the department said that status was in fact valid until 2018.
Montes, who was deported from Southern California to his native Mexico in February, had been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Obama for so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
On Wednesday, the department said he lost that status because he left the U.S. without permission and was caught trying to re-enter the country. DACA enrollees must be approved to travel outside the U.S.
Attorneys for Montes said the only reason he tried to re-enter the USA is because he had been deported by Customs and Border Protection two days earlier.
“Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA,” said Nora Preciado, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, which is helping in Montes’ lawsuit against the Trump administration. “Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, the Department of Homeland Security should respond to our request for documentation. We will see them in court.”
Montes’ case has received international attention because President Trump had pledged to exempt people enrolled in the DACA program from being deported under his tougher enforcement policies toward undocumented immigrants.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that Montes’ situation “is evolving right now” and said he wanted to see more information before he commented on the case.
Attorneys for Montes and Homeland Security still disagree over crucial points in his case.
Montes said that he was waiting for a ride in the southern California city of Calexico on Feb. 17 when he was approached by a Customs and Border Protection officer who started asking questions. Montes said he had left his wallet in a friend’s car and couldn’t produce his ID or proof of his DACA status, and wasn’t allowed to retrieve those documents. Within three hours, he said he was deported back to Mexico.
Montes said he was later mugged in the Mexican border town of Mexicali, which left him scared and eager to get back home. So two days later, he scaled the border wall near Calexico and was caught by Border Patrol. He was then deported again to Mexico, where he is now living with his aunt and uncle.
Homeland Security verified that Montes was arrested on Feb. 19 and deported, but the department said it had no record of his deportation two days earlier.
The case now moves to federal court, where Montes’ attorneys are asking a judge to force the Trump administration to release all records related to his case.
Juan Manuel Montes, 23, is the first DREAMer deported by the Trump administration.