Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents deported a 23-year-old child of undocumented immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in February, USA TODAY reported Tuesday, violating President Donald Trump's repeated promises to protect so-called "Dreamers" from deportation.
"They shouldn't be very worried," Trump told ABC News in January. "I do have a big heart."
But Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was reportedly picked up by ICE agents in Calexico, Calif., in late February while waiting for a ride from a friend, and summarily deported to Mexico when he couldn't produce identification. (Montes said he had left his wallet in his friend's car.)
Fellow Dreamer and United We Dream advocacy director Greisa Martinez told USA TODAY: "We've seen Trump and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] John Kelly say, 'The DACA program is alive and well.' We've seen [House Speaker] Paul Ryan look straight into the eyes of one of our members and say, 'You have nothing to worry about,'" she said. "And then this happens."
"Just last month Secretary Kelly promised me that no one with DACA would lose this protection unless they violated the terms of DACA. I intend to hold him to this commitment," Rep. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) commented to NBC.
A group of attorneys filed a lawsuit on Montes' behalf Tuesday after Customs and Border Protection failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Montes last month, seeking records regarding his case.
"Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how," said Nora A. Preciado, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, in a statement. "The government shouldn't treat anyone this way—much less someone who has DACA. No one should have to file a lawsuit to find out what happened to them."
USA TODAY also reported that Homeland Security statements regarding the case conflict with Montes' own records:
After USA TODAY published the story, the Department of Homeland Security—which had refused a request for comment for 24 hours—said it could not confirm details of Montes' deportation. Spokeswoman Jenny Burke said the department had no record of him renewing his DACA status after it expired in 2015, even though Montes' attorneys provided a copy of his work authorization card that showed his DACA status was valid through 2018.
The newspaper added: "Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, part of Montes' legal team, said it has requested information for months but has gotten no response."
"Even in this administration, because of Trump's comments about loving these people, the integrity of the government's promises are at stake," Hincapié told USA TODAY. "How does an immigrant family today know that this is not going to happen to them?"