Within three hours of his encounter with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in California, a 23-year-old man who appears to have active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status was walked across the Mexican border and told to stay in his birth country. On Tuesday, he sued the Trump administration, demanding answers.
The DACA program, created by former President Barack Obama, protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. while they were children. While President Trump has signed strict executive orders regarding immigration, he hasn't revoked the DACA protections that cover more than 750,000 people, often called "DREAMers," saying he has a "big heart." But on February 17, Juan Manuel Montes, who came to the U.S. at age 9, was approached by a border patrol agent while he waited for a ride in Calexico. He said he left his wallet with his ID and proof of DACA status in a friend's car, Montes said in a statement, and asked if he could retrieve it; he was told he couldn't. "They detained me, they took me to a center, they asked me a lot questions, and I signed a lot of papers," he told USA Today.
Montes says he did not understand what he was signing, did not receive any copies of the documents, and was then walked to the border and released into Mexicali, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported under Trump (his attorneys have provided a copy of his work authorization card, which reportedly shows his DACA status is valid through 2018). Montes has learning disabilities after a traumatic brain injury as a child, and was taking welding courses at a community college while earning money picking crops. He was convicted of shoplifting in 2016 and driving without a license, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says these infractions are not serious enough to revoke DACA status.
Montes is now staying with an aunt and uncle in western Mexico, after attempting to cross the border two days after his deportation, following a mugging; he was quickly caught and returned to Mexico. This has people like Greisa Martinez, director of the advocacy group United We Dream, concerned. "We've seen Trump and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] John Kelly say, 'The DACA program is alive and well,'" she told USA Today. "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.' And then this happens." Read more about Montes' situation and the Department of Homeland Security's response at USA Today.