A Southern California community college student who lived in the U.S. under a deferred action program sued the federal government Tuesday after he was sent back to Mexico in February.
The case of Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, may be the first removal of a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under President Donald Trump.
Created during the Obama Administraion, the DACA program allows young adults to temporarily live and work legally in the U.S. while protected from deportation. DACA status is renewable every two years.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said in an email to KPCC that Montes' DACA status expired in August 2015. "According to our records, his DACA status was not renewed," Hetlage stated.
Montes' attorneys, however, are asserting that his DACA authorization is valid to 2018. He first received DACA status in 2012 and received two-year renewals in 2014 and 2016, his suit states. Attorney Nora Preciado with the National Immigration Law Center said there is documentation to prove that Montes renewed his status and that it was current.
There are other disagreements: According to Hetlage, Montes was arrested after illegally entering the U.S. by climbing over a fence in downtown Calexico. Officials say he admitted he entered illegally and that he was "convicted for theft for which he received probation."
Montes' attorneys said the young man was walking down the street in Calexico to catch a taxi when he was stopped by a border official. When he could not produce identification, having forgotten his wallet in a friend's car, he was arrested.
"To this date, Mr. Montes, who suffers from a cognitive disability and is living in limbo in Mexico, does not know the legal basis for his removal," according to his lawsuit.
According to his attorneys, Montes came to the U.S. when he was 9. He suffered a brain injury, enrolled in special education classes through high school and overcame his challenges, graduating in 2013. He then enrolled in a community college to seek a degree in welding.
Montes is asking the U.S District Court, Southern District of California, to order the government to release records under the Freedom of Information Act that explain why he was arrested and removed from the country.
He is being represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles immigration attorneys Monica Ramirez Almadani and Stacy Tolchin, Belinda Escobosa Helzer of Fullerton and Devon Mobley-Ritter of Covinton & Burling LLP of Redwood Shores, California.