Despite the first known deportation of a DACA recipient, President Donald Trump said Friday that so-called Dreamers should “rest easy.”
Trump told the Associated Press in an interview that he administration is “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.” He said “that is our policy,” according to the AP.
“Dreamer” was originally a term applied in reference to DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, which would have gradually granted legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States at a young age.
Today, it generally refers to young undocumented people registered with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects registrants from deportation and allows them, among other things, to apply for a Social Security number and a drivers license.
Trump has put forward similar assurances before, telling ABC News days after his inauguration, referring to Dreamers: “They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.”
Trump told AP that the case of Juan Manuel Montes, whose lawyers say he is the first known DACA recipient to be deported, was “a little different than the Dreamer case,” though AP said he did not specify why.
Montes’ lawyers sued the government Tuesday, accusing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services of withholding information related to his deportation despite a FOIA request in mid-March.
Montes says he was deported on Feb. 17 without seeing a lawyer or immigration judge after he failed to produce identification for a border patrol agent, having left it in a friend’s car. DHS has said there is no record of that deportation, USA Today reported Tuesday when it broke the story.
Both Montes’ lawyers and DHS agree that Montes climbed over a border fence to cross into the United States on the Feb. 19, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was then returned to Mexico. Montes’ lawyers noted that he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child.
The Department of Homeland Security originally incorrectly stated that Montes had not renewed his DACA status through this year. In fact, Montes had, DHS now acknowledges.
“There was a time in his life that this individual was a DACA registrant,” DHS Secretary John Kelly said Thursday in reference to Montes, according to the Washington Times. “But he gave that up in his behavior, by his illegal actions. He’s no longer covered by the DACA arrangement.”
The judge assigned to the lawsuit is Gonzalo Curiel, who also oversaw the multi-million dollar settlement between former students of the Trump U. wealth seminar courses and Trump in November, and whom Trump smeared as “a Mexican” during the campaign, though he was born in Indiana.