An illegal immigrant “Dreamer” who became the face of the pro-DACA movement earlier this year after getting deported was arrested this week for trying to sneak back into the U.S. without permission, the Border Patrol said Wednesday.
Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez had claimed to be the first person protected by DACA to have been deported by the Trump administration, and was suing to regain entry to the U.S. A judge had seemed sympathetic to his case.
He had been waiting in his home county of Mexico for the actual court proceedings to begin, but Border Patrol agents say they caught him trying to sneak into the U.S. near Calexico, California.
“Our agents witnessed and arrested Mr. Bojorquez making an illegal entry into the United States for the second time this year,” said Assistant Chief Patrol Agent David S. Kim. “Border Patrol Agents will always stop, detain, and arrest anyone making an illegal entry into the country irrespective of their immigration or citizenship status.”
Mr. Montes had tried to sneak back into the U.S. in February after his initial deportation and was caught. The government said that attempt had helped negate his protections under the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty.
After this latest arrest, authorities said they would charge him with re-entry after removal, which is a felony that can earn up to two years in prison.
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According to documents filed in his case, Mr. Montes admitted to Border Patrol agents that he was not authorized to return to the U.S.
He said he had been trying to get to Sacramento.
A lawyer for Mr. Montes did not immediately return a message seeking comment late Wednesday.
The 23-year-old man became a major cause celebre when he was first deported in February, soon after Mr. Trump took office. Immigrant-rights activists said his removal was a sign that the president was breaking his promise not to target so-called Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants protected by the DACA program, for removal.
Mr. Montes was born in Mexico but came to the U.S. with his mother when he was nine years old, living in California.
He graduated high school in 2013 and had taken classes at a community college to try to get a welding degree, but said his ultimate goal was to be a police officer.
He was approved in 2014 for the DACA program, which President Obama created to grant Dreamers a stay of deportation and work permit, enabling them to gain a foothold in American society. He renewed his permit in 2016, and it was to last until January 2018.
In court papers filed in Spanish and translated to English, he said he was waiting for a taxi after visiting with friends in a border community in February when a Border Patrol agent accosted him.
He didn’t have his DACA permit on him, and he says he was deported. He said he doesn’t remember if he told the agents he was protected by DACA.
After being walked across the border to Mexico, Mr. Montes says he tried to figure out what to do, got mugged by two men, and decided he had to get back to the U.S., so he snuck back in. He was quickly arrested and deported again.
Immigrant-rights groups took up his cause and filed a lawsuit demanding he be readmitted to the U.S. and granted DACA again.
His case was still pending, and a judge had seemed sympathetic. It’s unclear how his latest arrest will affect that case.