A 23-year-old man deported to Mexico, despite the fact he was enrolled in a program designed to protect children brought into the U.S. by undocumented immigrants, has filed a lawsuit in San Diego demanding to see government documents related to his case.
NBC 7 San Diego obtained the complaint filed by attorneys representing Juan Manuel Montes, who had been living in the U.S. since he was 9 years old before he was deported on Feb. 18.
Montes had applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program four years ago. In 2016, he was granted deferred action by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service under DACA until 2018, according to the complaint.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told The Associated Press it disputed the account of Montes' immigration status, saying that his DACA permit expired in August 2015 and, according to its records, was not renewed.
“Montes was approached by a CBP agent while he was walking down the street in Calexico, California on his way to take a taxi home after seeing a friend. At that time, Mr. Montes had DACA status and employment authorization, which did not expire until 2018,” the complaint states.
In a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, which you can read in full at the bottom of this story, officials with the U.S. Border Patrol said they had no record of encountering him in the days before Feb. 19.
"There are no records or evidence to support Montes-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on February 18, 2017," the statement read, in part. "Prior to his arrest by the United States Border Patrol on February 19, 2017, Montes-Bojorquez's last documented encounter with any United States immigration law enforcement official was in August of 2010, where he was permitted to withdraw his application of admission in lieu of receiving an Expedited Removal."
Montes did not have his wallet, California identification card and EAD on him at the time he was stopped, according to the complaint.
CBP agents drove Montes to a port of entry in or near Calexco where it’s alleged they asked him to sign documents written in English.
The complaint alleges that the government did not provide any documentation as to why they sent him back to Mexico.
“He was not provided the opportunity to see an immigration judge, seek the assistance of counsel, or otherwise present his DACA paperwork or work authorization before he was removed from the United States,” the complaint states.
Read the entire complaint here.
Once in Mexico, Montes had a friend deliver his wallet and identification to him and he crossed into the U.S. on Feb. 19 where he turned himself in to CBP authorities who again escorted him out of the country, according to court documents.
The National Immigration Law Center has filed the complaint demanding access to any DHS or CBP records concerning Montes’ deportation.
“Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA. We believe him," said Nora A. Preciado, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel on the case.
"Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, DHS should respond to our request for documentation,” Preciado said.
Montes suffered a brain injury as a child and graduated high school through help from special education teachers, his attorney states in the complaint. He had been working on farms for two years but was planning to enroll in community college to earn a degree in welding.
His criminal record includes minor traffic offenses and a single misdemeanor offense, his attorney said in the complaint adding, “none of which would have disqualified Mr. Montes from DACA.”
Under the DACA guidelines, applicants should not have a conviction of a "felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety."
The government has issued nearly 800,000 DACA permits since President Barack Obama introduced the program in 2012 and nearly 700,000 renewals.
Read the full statement from the DHS below.
"After a detailed records search, it was determined that Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez was approved for DACA starting in 2014 and had a DACA expiration date of Jan. 25, 2018. However, Mr. Montes-Bojorquez lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advance parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19, 2017. According to his interview with the Border Patrol, conducted in Spanish, he entered the United States on February 19, 2017, and he acknowledged that he understood the questions that he was being asked. Departing the country without advance parole terminates the protections Montes-Bojorquez was granted under DACA."
"The U.S. Border Patrol has no record of encountering Mr. Montes-Bojorquez in the days before his detention and subsequent arrest for immigration violations on February 19, 2017. There are no records or evidence to support Montes-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on February 18, 2017. Prior to his arrest by the United States Border Patrol on February 19, 2017, Montes-Bojorquez's last documented encounter with any United States immigration law enforcement official was in August of 2010, where he was permitted to withdraw his application of admission in lieu of receiving an Expedited Removal."
"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. 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. However, even if Montes-Bojorquez 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. Montes-Bojorquez’s Employment Authorization Document is only for employment and is not valid for entry or admission into the United States."
"According to our records, Mr. Montes-Bojorquez was repatriated to Mexico on February 20, 2017, shortly after 3:20 p.m."