Deportation of DREAMer bodes ill for Filipino DACA recipients
LOS ANGELES– Agents from the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) two months ago went against President Donald Trump’s promise to protect undocumented youth and deported an undocumented Mexican immigrant.
An officer from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Calexico, California, on February 17 approached Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who moved to the U.S. at 9 years old, and began interrogating him.
Montes was arrested when he couldn’t produce identification or proof of his status at the time, and three hours later, was deported to Mexico.
Montes was the first arrested recipient of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a landmark executive order that grants benefits and opportunities for undocumented youth.
Montes’ arrest marks the first arrest made against a recipient since Trump’s entrance into office.
“Some people told me that they were going to deport me; others said nothing would happen,” Montes told USA TODAY. “I thought that if I kept my nose clean nothing would happen.”
Montes has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleging that the government did not provide any documentation explaining the legality of sending him back to Mexico.
Although Trump touts an iron fisted approach to immigration, he has previously wavered on his plans for DACA recipients. In January, he assured that he wouldn’t revoke DACA, telling ABC News that DREAMers “shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart.”
Since its introduction in 2012 by former President Barack Obama, DACA has provided benefits for more than 750,000 undocumented youth in the United States. The specific benefits vary from state to state, but DACA – which is renewable every two years – guarantees work authorization and protections from deportation.
Previously, DHS Secretary John Kelly and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan have assured that the DACA program will remain intact, but Montes’ arrest puts many immigrant rights activists at an unease.
Legal and civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA has been vocal about its disdain for the Trump administration’s immigration policies, accusing it of “preying upon members of the undocumented community.”
“Filipino DACA recipients are now more concerned and uncertain about their future in the United States due to these new immigration policies and increase in hate crimes across the nation,” Advancing Justice – LA legal advocate Tiffany Panlilio wrote to the Asian Journal in an email.
“As service providers, it is troubling to see those who have thrived under the DACA program who are now labeled as enforcement priorities due to a past order of deportation or a crime they committed years ago.”
Panlilio emphasized the importance of DACA and how it has benefited undocumented Filipino youth. Previously, Panlilio told the Asian Journal that Advancing Justice – LA has helped undocumented youth become career-minded individuals through DACA, including helping out many aspiring Filipino nurses obtain work authorization and university enrollment through the program.
“DACA has positively changed the lives of many undocumented Filipinos by granting them the ability to legally work, provide for their families, pursue a higher education, and most importantly remain in the United States without fear of being separated from their families,” Panlilio added.
“The DACA program continues to exist, but the new immigration policies brought forth by the new administration are allowing fear and anxiety to return to the community and force them back into the shadows.”