(NEW YORK) -- A 23-year-old man who was at one time a protected undocumented immigrant under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has been deported to Mexico, according to court documents. The deportation, his lawyers claim, is the first of its kind under the administration of President Donald Trump, a fact disputed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Juan Manuel Montes was deported by Customs and Border Protection on February 18 after illegally entering the United States by climbing over the fence in downtown Calexico, California, according to Homeland Security officials. Court documents note that the status of DACA recipients is terminated if the individual leaves the U.S. without receiving "advance parole." It is unclear whether Montes had such a clearance.
Attorneys for Montes filed a lawsuit alleging that he had permission to stay in the U.S. under the program protecting undocumented immigrants to the country who arrived as children.
Montes' defense claims that he was provided no explanation for his removal. He had lived in the U.S. since he was nine years old and his attorneys reported that he received a renewal of his DACA status and work authorization in 2016 which was not set to expire until 2018. DHS claims that Montes' DACA status expired in 2015 and that their records do not show that he was issued a renewal.
"Not a single piece of documentation or verbal explanation of what happened to him [was provided]," said attorney Nora Preciado of the National Immigration Law Center, which is representing Montes. Preciado said the lawsuit was filed to determine "what happened" in February and that they are unable to move forward without additional information.
The DACA policy, launched by the Obama administration in 2012, protects persons -- often called "DREAMers" -- brought into the U.S. during their youth from deportation and provides them with the right to work legally.
Since the launch of his presidential campaign, Trump has promised to interrupt undocumented immigration into the country, but has wavered on the particulars of the DACA policy. The president has said both that DACA is "one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President," while also noting that that "DREAMers" "shouldn't be very worried."
"I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody," said Trump in an interview with ABC News' David Muir in January, adding, "We'll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of four weeks."
The White House has yet to expand on Trump's promise of a policy.
Washington, D.C. lawmakers spoke out about Montes' deportation Thursday, split along party lines. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, portrayed the administration's stance as in favor of "an indiscriminate deportation dragnet of appalling inhumanity."
"The Trump Administration is terrorizing patriotic young people who want nothing more than to live, work and contribute to the country they love -- the only home they’ve ever known," said Pelosi in a statement. The Trump Administration's cruelty toward the DREAMers disgraces our values as a nation. Shame on them."
In his own statement, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, claimed Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly promised him "that no one with DACA would lose this protection unless they violated the terms of DACA."
"I intend to hold him to this commitment," said Durbin.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an outspoken proponent of stronger restrictions on immigration shared his thoughts on Montes' deportation on Twitter, toasting "Border Patrol" with a picture of a beer mug and writing "this one's for you."
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