San Diego

Former DACA Recipient Arrested While Attempting to Enter US Illegally

Juan Manuel Montes, 23, claims he was wrongfully deported to Mexico in February by Border Patrol agents

A man believed to be the first known participant of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program deported under President Donald Trump's Administration was arrested for allegedly attempting to illegally cross the border from Mexico back into the United States.

Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was arrested around 11:50 p.m. Monday near the border town of Calexico in Imperial County, California, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

Agents at the Calexico Border Patrol Station were notified by Remote Video Surveillance Systems operators that someone had made an illegal entry across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Montes ran approximately 200 yards north of the international boundary fence and laid down on the ground. When agents approached him, he attempted to run away, CBP said.

He was arrested after a short foot chase and transported to the Calexico Station for processing.

Montes claims he was wrongfully deported to Mexico in February by Border Patrol agents and was arrested a day later while attempting to re-enter the U.S. illegally, CBP officials said.

"Our agents witnessed and arrested (Mr. Montes) making an illegal entry into the United States for the second time this year," said Assistant Chief Patrol Agent David S. Kim. "Border Patrol Agents will always stop, detain, and arrest anyone making an illegal entry into the country irrespective of their immigration or citizenship status."

Montes came to the U.S. when he was 9 years old and pursued a welding degree at a community college after his high school graduation.

According to his attorneys, he qualified for the DACA program in 2014 and renewed his status for two years in 2016, granting him protection through 2018.

On Feb. 18, according to his attorneys, Montes was on his way home from visiting a friend when he was stopped by CBP agents in Calexico. Agents asked him for identification but Montes did not have his wallet, California ID or EAD card on him.

Montes was driven to a port of entry near or in Calexico and was allegedly asked the sign documents written in English by CBP agents. He was then deported to Mexico.

On Feb. 19, he tried to cross back into the United States and was detained by CBP. He was again deported on Feb. 20.

In April, Montes filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking information about his case. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Montes sought an explanation on the legality of sending him back to Mexico despite his enrollment in DACA, which gave him protected status through 2018.

CBP told NBC News at the time that Montes' DACA permit expired in August 2015 and, according to the agency's records, was not renewed. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) later said that after a detailed records search, it was determined that Montes did have a valid status via DACA through Jan. 25, 2018.

However, the DHS refutes Montes’ account of his detainment by CBP on Feb. 18, saying that he was detained on Feb. 19 after illegally trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico. 

The DHS said Montes "lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advance parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest" by the border patrol on Feb. 19.

The National Immigration Law Center, which represented Montes in the lawsuit, stood by its account and sought records on why their client was deported, alleging that immigration officials violated the Freedom of Information Act for failure to respond to its request beyond acknowledging receipt.

A trial was set for Dec. 4, and the Justice Department agreed with a federal judge in San Diego to let Montes back into the country so he could testify on his own behalf.

But in October Montes asked his lawyers to drop the case, saying he wanted to remain in Mexico where he had been living with family for eight months, according to USA Today. On Oct. 19, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel issued an order dismissing the case, USA Today reported.

Curiel was thrust onto the national stage when during the campaign by then-candidate Donald Trump, who questioned the the Indiana-born judge's impartiality due to his "Mexican heritage." At the time, Curiel presided over a case alleging the now-defunct Trump University misled customers. He approved a $25 million settlement to victims in the case.   

CBP officials said Montes was booked into the Imperial County Jail following his arrest this week on pending charges of re-entry after removal. No further details were released.

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