Dreamer deported as Homeland Security disputes circumstances

Attorneys say it could be the first under President Trump.

ByABC News
April 19, 2017, 9:11 PM

— -- A 23-year-old unauthorized immigrant who had been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy has been deported to Mexico, according to court documents and Department of Homeland Security records.

The deportation, the man's lawyers said, is the first of its kind under the administration of President Donald Trump.

According to court documents submitted by his attorneys, Juan Manuel Montes was "arrested, detained, and physically removed" from the United States in the middle of the night on or about Feb. 18, 2017, after he was approached by a Customs and Border Patrol agent while walking down the street in Calexico, California, on his way home after seeing a friend.

However, according to the DHS, there is no record of that encounter.

Homeland Security officials said he was arrested and detained by U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19 after admitting to agents that he illegally entered the U.S. Montes was repatriated to Mexico on Feb. 20, according to DHS records.

Montes' attorneys include the Feb. 19 incident in their lawsuit, writing that Montes "hid for about a half hour after crossing into the United States, but when he saw CBP officers he feared for his safety and turned himself in."

During his arrest interview, he never mentioned that he had received DACA status, according to the DHS. However, even if Montes had informed agents of his DACA status, "he had violated the conditions of his status by breaking continuous residency in the United States by leaving and then reentering the U.S. illegally," the DHS said.

Court documents note that the status of DACA recipients is terminated if the individual leaves the U.S. without receiving official permission, a rule known as "advance parole."

"After a detailed records search," the DHS determined that Montes was approved for DACA starting in 2014 and had a DACA expiration date of Jan. 25, 2018. The DHS initially said that his status had expired in 2015.

Attorneys for Montes filed a lawsuit asking the government to provide information about Montes’ encounters with CBP officers.

Montes' defense claims he was given no explanation for his removal. He had lived in the U.S. since he was 9 years old and his attorneys reported that he received a renewal of his DACA status and work authorization in 2016 which was not set to expire until 2018.

"Not a single piece of documentation or verbal explanation of what happened to him [was provided]," said attorney Nora Preciado of the National Immigration Law Center, which is representing Montes. Preciado said the lawsuit was filed to determine "what happened" in February and that they are unable to move forward without additional information.

The DACA policy, launched by the Obama administration in 2012, protects persons -- often called Dreamers -- brought into the U.S. as children from deportation and provides them with the right to work legally.

Since the launch of his presidential campaign, Trump has promised to end unauthorized immigration into the country but has wavered on the particulars of the DACA policy. He has said both that DACA is "one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president" and that "Dreamers shouldn't be very worried."

"I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody," Trump said in an interview with ABC News' David Muir in January, adding, "We'll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of four weeks."

Montes' case was assigned to Judge Gonzalo Curiel Wednesday, a jurist with whom Trump took issue during his presidential campaign while Curiel presided over a case involving Trump University. The president derided Curiel -- who was born in Indiana -- last year for interpreted bias due to his Mexican heritage.

Today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Montes' case.

"I think there is, the situation is evolving right now. There is a lot of things being looked at in terms of the circumstances surrounding that," Spicer said.

Washington, D.C., lawmakers spoke out about Montes' deportation on Tuesday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the administration's stance was "an indiscriminate deportation dragnet of appalling inhumanity."

"The Trump administration is terrorizing patriotic young people who want nothing more than to live, work and contribute to the country they love -- the only home they’ve ever known," Pelosi said in a statement. "The Trump administration's cruelty toward the Dreamers disgraces our values as a nation. Shame on them."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly promised him "that no one with DACA would lose this protection unless they violated the terms of DACA."

"I intend to hold him to this commitment," said Durbin.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an outspoken proponent of stronger restrictions on immigration, shared his thoughts on Montes' deportation on Twitter, toasting "Border Patrol" with a picture of a beer mug and writing, "This one's for you."

Editor's note: This story and headline was updated on April 19, 2017, to reflect the revised DHS statement on the DACA status of Montes and updated information on his encounters with U.S. Border Patrol, as well as comments from the White House.

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