The influential Hispanic Christian leader Samuel Rodriguez has said he is ‘hugely alarmed’ at reports that a so-called ‘DREAMer’ has been deported to Mexico despite Donald Trump promising not to remove the category of immigrants.
Rodriguez, who is the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and who read Scripture at Trump’s inauguration, said: ‘I’m hugely alarmed by recent reports that Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old DREAMer, was deported to Mexico and separated from his family by border officials.’
He added: ‘I will reiterate my position that the Trump administration has promised to not touch our DREAMers’ or separate good families. As such, I ask our leaders to get to the bottom of this issue to determine whether the deportation of Mr Montes violated this promise, and, if his deportation was indeed unwarranted, to immediately reunite him his family.’
Rodriguez has repeatedly wavered in his support for Trump over the issue of immigration. In February, he said in response to Trump’s pledge to deport illegal immigrants that his organisation would ensure ‘there is no enforcement overreach, breach of due process or racial discrimination’.
Unauthorised immigrants who qualify for the deferred action initiative are commonly referred to as ‘DREAMers’ because they comprise most of the individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act introduced by the former president Barack Obama.
Montes was supposedly protected under the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme but agents reportedly detained and swiftly expelled him in February, it emerged this week.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers apparently approached Montes on the street in Calexico, on California’s border with Mexico, and deported him three hours later without giving him a chance to collect his active Daca permit.
The news, which was first reported by USA Today, prompted an outcry from immigrant activists and others who used the hashtag #JusticeForJuan.
Before becoming president, Trump met DREAMers and after taking office retained Daca protections, which cover more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, signalling they would escape his immigration crackdown.
‘They shouldn’t be very worried,’ Trump told ABC News in January. ‘I do have a big heart.’
Despite this, at least 10 have been detained, according to United We Dream, and Montes, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, appears to be the first to be deported.
United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center have launched a petition asking John Kelly, the homeland security secretary, to let Montes return.
‘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.’