SAN DIEGO – Attorneys for the first-known “Dreamer” to be deported under the administration of President Donald Trump filed suit in San Diego Tuesday, demanding that the government turn over key information about their client’s sudden forced departure.
The suit filed on behalf of Juan Manuel Montes alleges that U.S. immigration officials failed to provide any documentation to explain the legal basis for sending the 23-year-old Mexican national to Mexico, even after his legal counsel contacted U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
CBP spokesman Ralph DeSio said that “as a matter of policy, CBP does not comment on pending litigation.”
Montes worked in California’s agricultural fields to help support his family and had studied welding at his local community college before he was detained in February by Border Patrol in Calexico and swiftly sent to Mexico, according to the complaint filed in federal court.
Montes, who has lived in the United States since he was 9 years old, had received protected status under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — DACA — program, said Nora A. Preciado, a staff attorney at the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center.
“I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say, but my home is there,” Montes 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.”
Montes, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and has a cognitive disability, is believed to be the first-known Dreamer — or DACA recipient — with an active work permit to be deported by the Trump administration, Preciado said.
“Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how,” Preciado said. “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 an 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, the suit alleges.
Within hours, in the middle of the night, Montes was physically removed to Mexicali, Mexico, according to the lawsuit.
“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, one of Montes’ attorneys.
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.