HOME­LAND SE­CU­RITY RE­VERSES IT­SELF

Young man in USA TO­DAY re­port had valid pro­tec­tive sta­tus till 2018

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Alan Gomez @alan­gomez USA TO­DAY Con­tribut­ing: David Jack­son in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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 GASTELUM, NA­TIONAL IM­MI­GRA­TION LAW CEN­TER, VIA AP

Juan Manuel Montes, 23, is the first DREAMer de­ported by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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