First deported DREAMer claims he was forced over the border by immigration agents

Juan Manuel Montes, the first person protected by DACA to be deported, filed court documents on Friday that dispute the Trump administration’s account of how he ended up in Mexico. While officials claim Montes willingly crossed into Mexico, thereby eliminating his DREAMer status, Montes and other witnesses say he was forced across the border by immigration agents.

The 23-year-old immigrant had been living in the United States since he was nine, and was protected under DACA, the Obama-era policy that allowed undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the country as children to receive two-year renewable work or student permits. The Department of Homeland Security originally claimed that Montes’ DACA eligibility had expired when he was deported. They subsequently changed their story the next day, saying he still had DREAMer status but lost it when he chose to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. But Montes claims he did not willingly go to Mexico.

According to the new court filing, Montes claims that on the night he was deported, he was waiting for a taxi when a law enforcement officer approached him and asked him for ID. Montes told the officer he left his wallet in a friend’s car and therefore didn’t have his ID on him. After being apprehended and questioned, Montes claims he and several others were taken to the border and told to cross over.

“I didn’t think I had a choice,” Montes said. “I knew he was kicking me out of the country, but I didn’t know why.”

Danielle Jimenez, who had dinner with Montes the night he ended up back in Mexico, also filed a statement claiming Montes made no indication he had any plans of going back.

“Juan said he was going home when he left my house,” Jimenez said. “I told him to text me when he got home, because I wanted to make sure he was safe. I texted him a few times that night, but got no response.”

DHS told USA Today they have no record that Montes was deported on the night in question, and policy techincally forbids them from deporting people between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Former Customs and Border Protection commissioner Gil Kerlikowske wrote a statement that was included in the most recent filings however, where he states “I would not be surprised that repatriations in violation of the arrangements continued to exist.”

The future of DACA has been thrown into question since Donald Trump became president. DHS Secretary John Kelly recently told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus he didn’t think DACA would stand up to a court challenge, adding to the fear that the admin would be rolling back protections of DREAMers.

[USA Today | Photo: Getty]