According to a lawsuit filed on April 18, 2017, Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez was deported to Mexico on February 18, 2017 despite having sought active protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. His story is worrisome and has brought into question Trump’s stance on DACA. Despite efforts to clarify the administration’s position on deporting non-criminal undocumented immigrants, White House press secretary Sean Spicer avoided a clear response. The possible change in federal policy is a nightmare for DREAMers across the country.
Former President Obama created the DACA program on June 15, 2012. The program offered deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. This meant that for a period of two years, initially three years, DACA recipients would be protected from deportation. The program also offered a work authorization, allowing recipients to work legally. Aside from what is known as “Temporary Protected States” (“TPS”), which designates an entire country, such as El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, for halting deportations to TPS designated countries due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, the DACA program was the first of its kind. It gave DREAMers hope and allowed them to step out of the shadows.
Mr. Montes Bojorquez has a similar story to that of many DREAMers who have reached out to DACA for help. Prior to his deportation, Mr. Montes Bojorquez was a Southern California Community College student; his dream was to become a welder. In efforts to have some sort of income while in school, Mr. Montes Bojorquez worked in the fields alongside many undocumented immigrants. Despite having had some issues with the law throughout his youth, such as shoplifting, the U.S. was the country that he called home – not Mexico. After being in Mexico for a couple of hours following his deportation, Mr. Montes Bojorquez was assaulted. Out of fear and desperation, he tried to sneak back into the U.S. on February 19. Despite his efforts to return to the country that he called home, Mr. Montes Bojorquez was caught by Border Patrol and deported once again.
The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) initially argued that Mr. Montes Bojorquez’s DACA status had expired prior to his deportation. Thereafter, DHS admitted that in fact Mr. Montes Bojorquez’s DACA status had not expired prior to his deportation. This means that Mr. Montes Bojorquez was deported despite being protected under the DACA program, which grants individuals a specific time period during which they will not be deported. As the case evolves, there are facts and arguments flying left and right about Mr. Montes Bojorquez’s case but what has all DREAMers worried is the fate of the DACA program.
Despite being the president who has deported more people than any other president, Obama managed to gain the Latino vote by giving false hopes. The DACA program was a political strategy to gain the Latino vote, which turned out to be a dead end route for DREAMers. Yes, the program allowed them to step out of the shadows momentarily. And yes, the program allowed them to work legally. But Obama left the fate of DREAMers in the hands of Trump by not providing a path for residency or citizenship. Obama could not get Congress to enact a law that would provide for residency and citizenship. He also could not use an executive order to do that. As a result, the DACA program is uncertain and as most attorneys and individuals have come to realize, it is not worth risking deportation.
Hundreds of thousands of DREAMers nervously await the result of Mr. Montes Bojorquez’s case. In a blink of an eye, what once seemed like a dream come true, has now become a nightmare for DREAMers across the nation.
Gilberto Orozco, Jr.