SAN DIEGO – The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that the first-known “Dreamer” to be deported under the Trump administration, who filed a lawsuit in San Diego over his removal, gave up his protected status when he traveled to Mexico.
Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez failed to notify officials of his plans to leave the U.S., a condition of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — DACA — program, according to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Montes-Bojorquez, 23, was detained by Border Patrol agents two months ago and sent back to Mexico.
“During Mr. Montes-Bojorquez’s detention and arrest by the United States Border Patrol on February 19, he admitted to agents that he had illegally entered the United States and was arrested,” the DHS statement said.
“He later admitted the same under oath. All of the arrest documents from February 19, 2017, bear Montes-Bojorquez’s signature. During his arrest interview, he never mentioned that he had received DACA status.”
The lawsuit filed on his behalf on Monday by Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center demands that the government turn over key information about his sudden forced departure.
The suit alleges that U.S. immigration officials failed to provide any documentation to explain the legal basis for his deportation, even after his legal counsel contacted U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lawyer Nora Preciado said her client, who had lived in the U.S. since age 9, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and has a cognitive disability. He has worked in California’s agricultural fields to help support his family and studied welding at his local community college, according to the complaint filed in federal court.
“I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say, but my home is there,” Montes-Bojorquez said in a statement provided by his lawyers. “I miss my job. I miss school. And I want to continue to work toward better opportunities. But most of all, I miss my family, and I have hope that I will be able to go back so I can be with them again.”
He is believed to be the first-known Dreamer — or DACA recipient — with an active work permit to be deported since Donald Trump became president, said Preciado. His DACA status was good through Jan. 25, 2018, according to the DHS.
“Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how,” Preciado said Monday. “The government shouldn’t treat anyone this way — much less someone who has DACA. No one should have to file a lawsuit to find out what happened to them.”
On the night of Feb. 17, Montes was walking to a taxi station in the border town of Calexico when a Border Patrol agent on a bicycle stopped him and asked for identification, the suit says. His lawyers say Montes responded that he had left his wallet in a friend’s car and did not have an identification on him.
Border agents then took him to a local station where he signed documents without being allowed to see an immigration judge, seek counsel or obtain copies of the papers he signed, according to his attorneys.
Within hours, in the middle of the night, Montes was transported to Mexicali, Mexico.
“We look forward to presenting our case to the court, because our client has the right to know why and how he was physically removed from the United States when he had permission to live and work here,” said Monica Ramirez Almadani, another of Montes’ attorneys.
The DHS statement said it had no record of encountering Montes in the manner alleged in the lawsuit, but said he was detained two days later.
He was interviewed in Spanish and acknowledged that he understood the questions he was being asked, according to the DHS. Records show the deportation took place on Feb. 20, shortly after 3:20 p.m., according to the agency.
Announced by the Obama administration in June 2012, DACA allows eligible immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work here temporarily. Montes was first approved for DACA in 2014 and successfully obtained a renewal in 2016. His DACA and work authorization were not set to expire until next year, his lawyers said.