SAN DIEGO (CN) – Did Customs and Border Protection agents wrongfully deport a 20-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient with legal status to reside in the United States, or did the young man cross into Mexico on his own accord, invalidating his U.S. residency?
That’s the question at the heart of the case of Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, who was brought to the United States as a third grader and has been twice granted legal status to work and go to school here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Montes claimed he was twice deported between Feb. 18 and 19, 2017, when he was stopped by Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border in the California desert town of Calexico after visiting with a friend.
The dreamer said he wasn’t provided any documentation of his deportation and decided to cross back into the United States the following day, after being jumped and robbed in Mexico.
But the government says Montes was only deported once, immediately after turning himself in to Border Patrol agents after crossing into the United States. Because Montes was deported, his DACA status has since been revoked. He is currently staying in Mexico with family.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel surprised attorneys on both sides Tuesday afternoon when he declined to hear arguments on the injunction motion Montes filed seeking to be returned to the United States and have his DACA status restored.
Instead, the judge indicated he wanted to expedite trial and suggested the court could accommodate a trial as early as Sept. 11.
Montes’ attorney Monica Ramirez Almadani said she believed the attorneys working on the case presented enough evidence for Montes to be returned to the United States “as soon as possible,” calling it “critical” to move forward with the case.
But Curiel disputed it was as clear-cut as Almadani presented, saying the declarations filed in support of Montes’ injunction “raised a number of questions” that need to be answered at trial.
Almadani told the judge Montes’ life has been “shattered” since he was deported more than six months ago.
“We just want him to be back in the United States with his mother and three-year-old brother,” Almadani said.
Justice Department attorney Aaron Goldsmith echoed Almadani’s concerns about expediting the trial, saying the government was unprepared to say discovery and witness depositions could be completed in time for a trial as early as September.
“All these roads lead to the same place: Was Mr. Montes Bojorquez removed by law enforcement Feb. 18 to 19,” Curiel said.
The case was initially filed as a Freedom of Information Act case when Montes’ attorneys claimed the government didn’t provide any documents related to his deportation. But the government says it has not produced documents from the night of Feb. 18 because Montes was not deported that night.
In his amended complaint, Montes claims his first deportation in the middle of the night on Feb. 18 violated an agreement between the United States and Mexico prohibiting the deportation of Mexican citizens between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Montes’ attorneys and activists gathered outside the federal courthouse following the hearing.
National Immigration Law Center attorney Nora Preciado told reporters Montes is struggling emotionally and financially in Mexico and that he wants to go back to school.
Preciado said Montes’ case extends to all DACA recipients who are concerned about the “federal government making a promise and breaking it” when it deported Montes.
Curiel ordered the attorneys to meet and confer on how soon discovery could be conducted in the case. He continued the hearing to Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.