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Deported DACA Recipient Sues US Government

FILE - This May 1, 2015 photo shows an aerial view of the US Mexico border showing Calexico, Calif. below and Mexicali, Mexico above.

A 23-year-old man, who was granted protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), has filed a federal lawsuit demanding the federal government to release information about his "sudden" deportation.

Juan Manuel Montes filed suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after U.S. immigration officials failed to provide any documentation to explain the legal basis for sending him back to Mexico.

Montes was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was four and deported to Mexico by U.S. officials in February. He is the first DACA-protected immigrant to be deported under the Trump administration.

Montes' lawyers said immigration officials did not provide the documentation requested even after his legal counsel contacted Border Patrol under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

"We look forward to presenting our case to the court, because our client has the right to know why and how he was physically removed from the United States when he had permission to live and work here," Mónica Ramírez Almadani, an attorney with Covington & Burling LLP, said in a statement sent to the media by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Complicated case

In the release, Montes said he was walking to a taxi station in Calexico, a border town in California, when a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) agent on a bicycle stopped and asked for his identification.

FILE - A Border Patrol agent stands inside one of the holding areas at the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Tucson, Ariz., Aug. 9, 2012.
FILE - A Border Patrol agent stands inside one of the holding areas at the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Tucson, Ariz., Aug. 9, 2012.

According to Montes, he told the agent he had left his wallet in a friend's car and did not have identification on him.

"I was forced out because I was nervous and didn't know what to do or say, but my home is there," Montes said.

The DACA recipient said CBP then took him to a local station where Montes said they made him sign documents and did not provide him with copies of the signed documents, allow him to see an immigration judge or seek counsel.

He said within hours, in the middle of the night, he was deported to Mexicali, Mexico.

"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," Montes said in a statement.

VOA asked CBP about Montes' case and a spokesman said Montes' DACA status expired in August 2015, and he was notified at that time.

"Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez was apprehended by the Calexico Station Border Patrol after illegally entering the U.S. by climbing over the fence in downtown Calexico.He was arrested by Border Patrol just minutes after he made his illegal entry and admitted under oath during the arrest interview that he had entered illegally," CBP spokesperson said.

In addition, CBP wrote, Montes has a conviction for theft for which he received probation.

Montes does not mention in the news release his DACA status, crime conviction, or an illegal reentry to the U.S., and NILC said Montes has an active work permit.

Besides working in California's agricultural fields to help support his family, Montes studied welding at a local community college.

CBP did not provide VOA any additional information on Montes' criminal cases. NILC says officials acknowledged receiving the FOIA request, but have not provided the documents.

"Montes also sought additional information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] and from the Calexico Port of Entry, to no avail. FOIA provides an agency with 20 business days to respond to a request for records. CBP and USCIS have failed to timely respond as required by law," NILC said.

The Obama-era DACA, which defers deportation and grants work permits for a renewable two-year period, still has an uncertain future. DACA recipients have been in limbo since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Even though Trump campaigned on a promise to undo DACA, he has since declared himself divided on a "very, very tough" issue. No announcements have been made about the program's future.

But the Department of Homeland Security tells VOA that 43 DACA recipients have been deported since Trump took office. In addition, DHS says 676 DACA recipients are in removal proceedings and 90 have been detained.