Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, may be the first person with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status to be deported under the Trump Administration. Montes, who came to the United States when he was 9 years old from Mexico and overcame a childhood brain injury to attend community college, became a DACA recipient in 2014.
On Tuesday (April 18) Montes filed a lawsuit against the Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding that the government agencies disclose and release their records related to his deportation. In the lawsuit, Montes claims that CBP agents stopped him in February while he was walking down a street in Calexico, a border town in California. He says that CBP agents did not allow him the opportunity to get his DACA permit, which was in a friend’s car, or to seek counsel. Instead, they deported him. After he tried to return by climbing the U.S.-Mexico border fence, Montes was arrested and deported again.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) disputes these facts. In an April 19 statement from the agency’s press office, DHS claims that it has no records of apprehending and deporting Montes in Calexico, and that CBP officials first encountered him after he entered the United States from Mexico. According to DHS, Montes’ valid DACA status does not protect him because he left the country on his own volition. Yet, DHS has yet to turn over any files or records related to Montes despite requests made by his counsel.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which is representing Montes, believes that his experience has major ramifications. “This case is important because other DACA recipients – and all of us who care about freedom and transparency – deserve to know what happened to Juan Montes. We need to know how and why Juan Montes was physically removed from the country he calls home to prevent this from happening to anyone else.”
Over 750,000 undocumented young people have received DACA status, including work permits and deportation relief, through a program put into place by the Obama Administration. Upon taking office, President Trump indicated that his Administration would protect DACA recipients. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News in January of this year. “I do have a big heart.”
Greisa Martinez, advocacy director of United We Dream, disagrees. “It’s not heart and compassion that we are seeing from the federal government right now,” she tells Colorlines. “It has been traumatic for immigrant youth to process the fact that our undocumented family members are at risk under Trump’s anything-goes deportation policy. The detentions of DACA youth and Juan Montes’ deportation mean that our own status in this country is being questioned.” Several DACA youth have been detained under the Trump Administration, including Daniel Ramirez Medina and Josue Romero.
In a curious turn of events, the judge assigned to hear Montes’ case is U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump had attacked while on the campaign trail. Trump questioned whether Curiel could remain objective as he presided over litigation against Trump University by saying, “I think it has to do with, perhaps, the fact that I’m very, very strong on the border—very, very strong on the border. He has been extremely hostile to me. Now, he is Hispanic, I believe.” Trump subsequently issued a statement saying that his words were “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”
Montes’ supporters are rallying behind him with a campaign called #JusticeforJuan and asking DHS Secretary Kelly to allow Montes to return home.