A 23-year-old man is suing the US federal government over his deportation to Mexico, saying he was entitled to remain in the US under a program that shields people who arrived in the nation as young children.
Juan Manuel Montes’ attorneys said their client is believed to be the first person who qualifies for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to be deported by US President Donald Trump.
The attorneys said Montes qualified for DACA in 2014 and renewed his status for two years last year.
US Customs and Border Protection disputed the account of Montes’ immigration status, saying that his DACA permit expired in August 2015 and, according to its records, was not renewed.
The agency said Montes was once convicted of theft and sentenced to probation. His lawyers acknowledged on Tuesday in the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of California that he had a misdemeanor on his record and “minor traffic offenses,” none of which would have disqualified him from DACA.
Montes, who arrived in the US when he was nine years old and suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, graduated high school in 2013 and pursued a welding degree at community college. He then worked two years picking crops in California and Arizona.
According to the lawsuit, Montes was sent to Mexico on Feb. 17 after being stopped by a law enforcement official and asked for identification while walking to a taxi stand in Calexico, California.
He had left his wallet in a friend’s car and felt “scared and confused.”
He was asked to sign documents without being given copies or an opportunity to see an immigration judge.
After getting assaulted in the Mexican border city of Mexicali, Montes returned to the US on Feb. 19 and turned himself over to authorities, according to the lawsuit.
He was again asked to sign documents, not provided copies and returned to Mexico.
“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 released by his attorneys. “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.”
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