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A day after Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old Mexican national with protected immigration status, sued the Donald Trump administration for being deported in February, federal officials took a step back to correct themselves. And now the administration is saying it’s not targeting those who are protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) after all.
Though officials originally stated that Montes’s legal status ended two years ago, they now say that his status actually isn’t set to expire until 2018.
However, Department of Homeland Security officials have also denied the man’s claim that he had been deported and say that he voluntarily left the country to travel to Mexico. If this is true, Montes may be unqualified for the DACA program, which grants him permission to live and work in the U.S. granted by the Obama-era directive. The program shields and protects young people who came to the country illegally as children, or DREAMers, to apply for deferred deportation and work permits.
Montes, who has lived in the U.S. since the age of 9, was taken from California in February and deported to Mexico. He is known as the first DREAMer to be forcibly removed since DACA has been put in effect.
But Trump and members of his administration have said that immigrants like Montes are not the people they are targeting. Trump told the Associated Press on Friday that the DREAMers like Montes should “rest easy” because his new immigration policies focus on catching criminals.
Trump commented that Montes’s case is “a little different than the DREAMer case,” but did not provide further clarification.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also addressed the situation on Fox News’s “Happening Now,” saying that “DACA enrollees are not being targeted” and that he was unsure why Montes was even picked up. He said the administration is focusing on removing people caught at the border but did not state that DREAMers are necessarily granted immunity.
Dahlia Dandashi is a multimedia content producer. Her work has been published at the Austin American-Statesman and Viceland. An Arab-American raised in Dubai, she is based in Austin, Texas.