(WASHINGTON) — Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was deported to Mexico in February in what has become a controversial case, pitting his advocates against Trump administration officials.
Attorneys for Montes allege that he was arrested, detained and deported in the middle of the night in mid-February. Then a couple days later, after being attacked and mugged in Mexico, he crossed back into the U.S. – turning himself into to U.S. authorities.
However, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the first incident never happened.
“There are no records or evidence to support Montes’ claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on February 18, 2017,” said a DHS statement.
Attorneys are now suing the government for more information and in a twist of fate, the lawsuit was assigned to the same judge Trump berated on the campaign trail.
Where the case stands now
Montes’ attorneys claim that this is first known case of a DACA recipient, or so-called “DREAMer” being deported under the administration of President Donald Trump and they want answers.
Lawyers for the 23-year-old brought a lawsuit in federal court, calling on the government to provide information about his case.
“The reason we filed the lawsuit on Manuel is first and foremost, we want the truth,” said attorney Karen Tumlin in an interview with ABC News.
Montes’ DACA status grants him permission to live and work in the U.S., according to court documents.
According to the government, he gave up that status when he left the U.S. without first getting permission — a requirement to keep DACA authorization. And they said he further violated his status, when he illegally re-entered the U.S.
“He once was covered by DACA but because of his behavior, his illegal behavior, he messed up that status and now he is been removed to his country of origin,” said DHS Sec. John Kelly when asked about the case during a border tour in El Paso, Texas on Thursday.
DHS produced a “few pages” of documents to attorneys this morning, detailing only the second deportation of Montes, said Tumlin.
This came after numerous requests for information that went unanswered — resulting in the lawsuit, said his attorney.
Attorneys for Montes said they will be responding immediately to what has been produced today, because they “believe it’s willfully insufficient,” said Tumlin.
We “will be moving as fast as possible to get answers for Juan Manuel,” she added.
The case is now before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over two of the three lawsuits involving the now-defunct Trump University. Trump has attacked Curiel multiple times over the last year, questioning whether the judge’s heritage would influence his judicial decisions.
How the case landed with Judge Curiel
It’s a twist of fate, that the lawsuit landed before the same judge Trump berated on the campaign trail.
The case landed at the U.S. District Court for Southern California, where it was randomly assigned to Curiel, who serves as one of 17 federal district court judges, according to the clerk’s’ office.
The alleged incident took place in Calexico, California, giving the district court geographic authority. Montes’ attorneys are suing the federal government, so it went straight to federal court.
Judicial ethics rules prevent Curiel from commenting on any case that is before his court.
Montes’ attorney said that Trump’s past comments about Curiel are “absolutely irrelevant” to their case.
“As a litigator, as someone who appears before judges all over the country, I rely on anyone who rules the vote to be fair and impartial, and that’s what i expect of Judge Curiel, she said.
— Nat’l Imm Law Center (@NILC_org) April 20, 2017
Homeland Security officials maintain that Montes was justly arrested and deported.
Customs and Border Protection always keeps records of encounters and deportations, according to Customs and Border Protection.
“If it’s not in the system, then we didn’t encounter the person,” said a CBP official.
In addition, during his detention and arrest by Border Patrol on February 19, he admitted to agents that he had illegally entered the U.S., said DHS, which oversees CBP and Border Patrol.
He never mentioned that he had received DACA status during his arrest interview, according to DHS.
But his attorneys and advocates are standing by Montes’ account of the events and are continuing to press the lawsuit.
“Juan Manuel has been completely clear about at least two things since we’ve been talking to him: one, he’s been on DACA the whole time, which is true. And two, he knew that there were flashing red lights in his mind about leaving the United States, the country he considers home,” said Tumlin.
Montes is currently staying with extended family in Mexico. He doesn’t want his location revealed, according to Tumlin.
He misses his family and is sad about not being able to complete his education, according to his lawyer.
“I think the best outcome is first and foremost that Juan Manuel knows what happens to him, and that his story is corroborated and then we will swiftly seek his return home.
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