A 23-year old man who claims he's the first with protected DACA status to be deported under President Donald Trump is now suing the government after being stopped by a border officer in Calexico and being sent back to Mexico.
Juan Manuel Montes, 23, argues that he was entitled to be in the United States until Jan. 25, 2018 under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Department of Homeland Security initially said his status had expired in August 2015 and wasn't renewed. But on Wednesday, the agency reversed its position, acknowledging that he had been entitled to stay until 2018.
However, the agency also said Montes acknowledged under oath that he left and then re-entered the country illegally on Feb. 19, forcing him to lose status because it was an admission that he left without required permission.
Montes and his attorneys' version of those events is different. They say there were actually two deportations - one done without explanation, documents or access to attorneys.
He says he was in Calexico, California - near the U.S./Mexico border - on Feb. 17 when a Border Patrol agent approached him and asked for identification. When he couldn't provide one, he said, he was taken to a local station and within hours he was deported.
"He was in Mexico for a night and he was mugged at knifepoint," said his attorney, Nora Preciado with the National Immigration Law Center. "He was very scared for his life, so he tried to come back to the U.S."
After that mugging, he returned to the United States and was again deported on Feb. 20.
Homeland Security said Wednesday that the Border Patrol had no record of the initial encounter in Calexico and that Montes had left the United States "on an unknown date." The Border Patrol arrested after him after he climbed over a border fence in the California border town of about 40,000 people.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that he didn't want to "rush to judgment" about Montes and referred questions to Homeland Security. He said the administration's enforcement priorities are people who committed crimes in the United States and pose a threat.
"I would respectfully suggest that, in this case, the facts are not completely out, so I would rather not jump to conclusions about what happened," he said.
Preciado said the lawsuit was filed in part to get more information out of the government, especially about the first deportation.
"We have to file this lawsuit because we don't know what happened to him," Preciado said. "The government didn't explain it at the time. They didn't give him any documents. He didn't have access to an attorney."
Ironically, the lawsuit seeking information about the deportation was assigned to the same judge who oversaw a lawsuit against Trump University.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego last month approved an agreement for Trump to pay $25 million to settle cases alleging that his now-defunct Trump University misled customers.
Trump repeatedly criticized the Indiana-born judge during the presidential campaign, insinuating that his Mexican heritage exposed a bias.
The assigning of the case to Curiel is believed to be a coincidence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Deported man with DACA status suing for return to U.S.