Juan Manuel Montes gave up his right to be part of President Obama’s deportation amnesty through “his illegal actions,” Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said Thursday, backing up his agents in a case that’s become the biggest test so far of President Trump’s get-tough policies.
Mr. Montes, a 23-year-old, was deported to Mexico in February. Immigrant-rights advocates nationwide, and top Democrats in Washington, have rallied to his cause, saying he should have been allowed to stay, and questioning whether Homeland Security was telling the truth about the case.
Mr. Kelly, speaking in El Paso, where he had just toured the border, said his review of the case showed that his folks handled it right in deporting the man, despite his having been approved twice under Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, often referred to by critics as an amnesty program.
“There was a time in his life that this individual was a DACA resident but he gave that up by his behavior and his illegal actions. He’s no longer covered by the DACA arrangement,” Mr. Kelly said.
He didn’t specify which illegal actions led to the stripping, but Homeland Security officials have said Mr. Montes had several convictions for driving without a license, a new conviction last year for shoplifting, and had also left the U.S. and then tried to come back in without ever getting permission to do so.
“He once was covered by DACA but because of his behavior, his illegal behavior, he lost that status,” the secretary continued.
Mr. Montes has sued Homeland Security to try to get more details on his ouster, and activists are demanding that he be allowed back into the U.S., calling his deportation illegal.
“Juan Manuel is looking for the truth,” said Karen Tumlin, his lawyer. “He’s a gentleman that’s grown up in California and he wants to know exactly how and why the government removed him.”
Greisa Martinez Rosa, advocacy director for United We Dream, a group that defends DACA recipients, said she believes federal agents are covering up their own bad behavior in Mr. Montes’s case.
“Right now, Trump agents are lying about Juan’s story. They are smearing his name,” she said, comparing his deportation to race-related slayings. “What they are doing to Juan is the same thing abusive law enforcement do to people of color who are killed.”