The Slatest

Dreamers Are Getting Detained and Deported Despite Trump’s Promise of Protection for Immigrant Children

U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American immigrants into custody on Jan. 4, near McAllen, Texas.

John Moore/Getty Images

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump said many, many things. Most of them were somewhere between outlandish and absurd, making the rare moment of moral clarity by the current president hard to fathom, much less rely upon. On Tuesday, the Trump administration proved once again that the president of the United States’ words are not to be depended upon, as what appears to be the first of the Dreamers—immigrants that came to the U.S. as children that Trump promised some protection from deportation—was deported to Mexico in a matter of hours.

USA Today reports that 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes—who came to the U.S. at the age of 9 and had received deportation protection twice from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—was approached by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on Feb. 17 in California.

Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car, so he couldn’t produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn’t retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration’s stepped-up deportation policy … The shy Montes was never a poster child for the DACA program. He wasn’t his high school’s valedictorian or a prominent advocate for fellow DREAMers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child that left him with learning disabilities that meant a constant struggle to keep up in school and everyday conversations, according to [his lawyer]. Despite those challenges, he made it through special education courses and graduated high school in 2013. He started taking welding classes at a Southern California community college and paid for it by picking crops in California and Arizona.

“They detained me, they took me to a center, they asked me a lot of questions, and I signed a lot of papers,” he said. Montes said he couldn’t understand anything he was signing and was not given any copies. Officers walked him to the U.S.-Mexico border and released him into Mexicali … Today, Montes has reconnected with his estranged father and works in a gas station and a tortilla mill. But he’s counting the days until he can return to the U.S. and continue building his life.

The Department of Homeland Security, according to USA Today’s reporting, has not been forthcoming about Montes’ case, the first known instance of a Dreamer being deported under the Trump administration. According to advocacy groups, another 10 are currently in custody. The DREAM Act and the DACA program were designed to take a humane approach to how the U.S. deals with children brought to the country illegally when they were very young and, now, in many cases, have lived in the U.S. for decades, as well as families that may be torn apart by the deportation of a mother or father who is undocumented, but whose kids are American citizens. It goes without saying that many Dreamers have gone on to be successful students and adults; they are often held up as examples of the flaws with blanket deportation orders. On Tuesday, Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Republican who occupies the white-nationalist portion of the Trump base, had this to say about the news of a young man being split from his family.

Steve King will be on the ballot again in Nov. 2018. Enough is enough.