By Alexandra Mendoza
The deportation of an undocumented immigrant enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) seems to be an isolated case, and not a signal that President Donald Trump has ended the program that has helped over 800,000 people stay in the country.
Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government stating that he was deported despite being protected under DACA. The DACA program allows individuals brought into the country as minors to file for protection from deportation, gain work permits, and continue their education.
Montes Bojorquez, who suffers from a cognitive problem, says he was arrested in Calexico on Feb. 18 by Border Patrol agents and, since he did not have his wallet, which contained documents that would have shown that he was protected by DACA, he was taken to a station in Calexico, California and deported that same morning.
Days later, Montes Bojorquez was arrested again when he tried to return to the United States without proper documentation, for which he was he was again deported to Mexico.
According to the U.S. government, there is no record of the first deportation, leading to claims that the young man returned to Mexico voluntarily, which would have lead him to lose his DACA benefits given because he would have had to request a permit to leave the United States legally.
However, Montes Bojorquez’s lawyers reject this version.
“He knew that he could not leave the United States, he knew what it means to have a DACA permit, so for him, it was illogical and impossible to voluntarily go to Mexico,” said Monica Ramirez, a member of the legal team representing Montes Bojorquez.
Montes Bojorquez had already renewed his DACA, which expires in 2018, federal authorities have corroborated.
His case is now in a San Diego Court, where a judge is evaluating the possibility that he may return temporarily to be present during the legal process.
San Diego Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel asked the Mexican national’s lawyers to file a written request to analyze a possible return on probation so that he has the opportunity to testify in person.
During the hearing this week in federal court, Judge Curiel asked that the U.S. government present the necessary evidence to make their case, which contains records and videos of the night Montes Bojorquez would have been deported for the first time.
The Justice Department’s lawyer said he would have to check whether pictures are still available, as pictures are usually deleted after 30 days.
However, Montes Bojorquez’s lawyers insisted that they filed the complaint months ago, so the government agency being sued was aware that these images may be required.
The Mexican government would have even made a diplomatic request for an investigation on whether the deportation of the Mexican national followed current regulations and local repatriation agreements signed between Mexican and U.S. authorities.
Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said it is worrying that there are no records of this deportation.
“It is unfortunate that we have to go to a federal judge to answer a very basic question, what happened to Juan Manuel’s deportation file? Which were the agents involved? What happened with the videos?” Ramirez questioned.
Nora Preciado, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, and part of Montes Bojorquez’s legal team, limited her statements to pointing out that the government must provide information to the court about their protocol on storing videos captured by surveillance cameras.
During his election campaign, Trump promised to overturn DACA, which would have led to the deportation of DACA recipients, but has since backed away from those claims.
Despite the stance he may take, Trump has not had much success in delivering on major campaign promises in regards to repealing laws, including immigration changes, and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Trump has not made a formal address as to the future of the DACA program, whether he will end it, or continue allowing undocumented immigrants already enrolled in the program to retain their protected status.
The judge handling Montes Bojorquez’s case, Judge Gonzalo Curiel, is the same judge criticized by Donald Trump during last year’s campaign. Judge Curiel handled the class action lawsuit against Trump and his Trump University program. At the time, Trump said Curiel could not be unbiased in the case because he was of Mexican descent. Curiel was born and raised in Indiana, and previously handled drug smuggling cases against Mexican cartels.