Are DREAMers Allowed To Leave The Country? One Man's Deportation Raises Questions


The immigration case of 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes marks the first reported deportation of a DREAMer — an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially stated that his happened because Montes left the United States without permission. So are DREAMers allowed to leave the country? Given the drastic measures taken in response, it appears that this is a topic in need of some clearing up.

UPDATE: In an email statement to Romper, a DHS spokesman reiterated the agency's claim that Montes had not been deported due to a clerical error regarding his protected status, but rather Montes had left the country of his own accord and had been detained upon his return. "There was an error in our initial response on Tuesday evening about Montes’ DACA status that was corrected the following morning after a more detailed records check," the spokesman stated. "He was deported because he was apprehended after illegally crossing the border, a fact he admitted in his arrest interview. His DACA status was immediately terminated when he left the U.S. without advance parole (approved travel outside the US) so at the time he was arrested in Calexico and returned to Mexico, he no longer had DACA status."

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EARLIER: As mentioned, initial statements by the Department of Homeland Security alleged that Montes' protective status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program had expired in 2015. On Wednesday, however, the department offered a correction, noting that Montes was actually protected through 2018. Montes was detained by Border Patrol when he tried to reenter the United States from Mexico; Under DACA, Montes wasn't allowed to leave the United States without permission. Herein lies the conflict between Montes' story and that of the DHS: Montes claimed that he didn't leave the country voluntarily, but that the DHS wrongfully deported him from the United States a couple of days prior. Romper has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security about the matter and is awaiting a response.

Montes claimed that, on day of his alleged deportation, he was walking to a taxi station in California. He insisted that he didn't have any identification on him, having left his belongings in a friend's car. Montes alleged that he was then stopped by a Border Patrol agent, was taken into custody, and was then removed from the United States. The DHS has stated that it has no record of Montes’ detainment or deportation.

According to existing laws, in order for DACA recipients to leave the country and be able to return, they must first apply for an "Advance Parole" document. Once this document is obtained, however, re-admittance is still not guaranteed. The law website Nolo warns that, upon reentry, "The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer whom you will meet upon your return can deny your entry if he or she thinks you are 'inadmissible,' most likely for health or security reasons."

The reasons Advance Parole may be granted must also be expressed in a DACA recipients' application. "Educational," "humanitarian," and "employment" reasons are the only accepted justifications. Furthermore, applicants must pay a hefty $575 filing fee to even be considered for Advance Parole. If approved, recipients are mailed a document, stamped with a "return by" date.

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In statement to the press, DHS claimed it had not met with Montes prior to him initially leaving the country (again, Montes claims he was unwillingly deported), saying,

Whether he was deported initially or not, Montes — who was "repatriated to Mexico on February 20, 2017, shortly after 3:20 p.m." according to the agency — may now never be allowed to return to the United States, despite the fact that he was reportedly protected through 2018. His lawyers are now hard at work in his defense, but his story is the epitome of a cautionary tale for DREAMers: Without full documentation, leaving the country may just not be an option. Unfortunately, any attempts to do so put one's legal, protective status at risk.