The Department of Homeland Security reversed itself Wednesday, acknowledging that a young man who was deported to Mexico had valid protective status in the U.S., despite its earlier claim.
On Tuesday, the department said its records showed the protective status of Juan Manuel Montes, 23, had expired in 2015. On Wednesday, the department said that status was, in fact, valid until 2018.
Montes, who was deported from Southern California to his native Mexico in February, had been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama for so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
A lawsuit seeking records about Montes' deportation was assigned to U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, who last month approved an agreement for President Donald Trump to pay $25 million to settle cases alleging that his now-defunct Trump University misled customers.
Trump repeatedly criticized the Indiana-born judge during the presidential campaign, insinuating that his Mexican heritage exposed a bias.
On Wednesday, the department said Montes lost his protected status because he left the United States without permission and was caught trying to re-enter the country. DACA enrollees must be approved to travel outside the U.S.
However, attorneys for Montes said the only reason he tried to re-enter the country was that he had been deported by Customs and Border Protection two days earlier.
Montes' case has received international attention because Trump had pledged to exempt people enrolled in the DACA program from being deported under his tougher enforcement policies toward undocumented immigrants.
The government has issued nearly 800,000 DACA permits since Obama introduced the program in 2012, and nearly 700,000 renewals. The Department of Homeland Security told VOA that 43 DACA recipients had been deported since Trump took office. In addition, DHS said 676 DACA recipients were in removal proceedings and 90 had been detained.