President Trump promised that DREAMers, the children of immigrants who were brought to the United States at a very young age, would be safe from his efforts to deport millions of hopeful people from our country. “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart” said Trump in January.
Of course, he lied. On February 17th, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was grabbing a bite to eat with his girlfriend in Calexico, California when a Customs and Border Patrol Officer started asking questions.
Montes has been granted deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act not once but twice, since he arrived in the US at the age of nine, but that didn’t matter to the deportation police. His identifying documents in his wallet were accidentally left in a friend’s car, and the police wouldn’t let him retrieve them prove that he was legally allowed to stay in the country.
He found himself back in Mexico not three hours later. He was promptly mugged and beaten, climbed back over the border wall to try and get home, was caught, and was deported again.
Montes is a perfect representation of the opportunities that the United States can offer people that they wouldn’t have had in their home nations. A childhood brain injury left him with serious learning disabilities, but he powered through and thanks to public special education classes, graduated high school in 2013. He was training to be a welder at a Southern California community college and paid for it by picking crops. He was six months away from graduation when he was deported.
While it is true, as boorish Republican scumbags like David Frum were quick to point out, Montes has four convictions on his record, three of them were for driving without a license and one was for shoplifting – all of which are evidence of a young person making poor decisions, as young people are wont to do, and none of which are serious enough to disqualify him from DACA protection.
Trump may have promised to leave DREAMers alone, but the truth is far more sinister. Far from Washington, the newly empowered deportation police act with impunity, knowing that oversight from the Justice Department will be slow – if it comes at all.
The United We Dream advocacy group says that at least ten DREAMers are currently in federal custody, despite their protected status.
Montes may be the first DREAMer to fall into Trump’s trap, but he certainly won’t be the last. He’s lived nearly his entire adult life in the United States and was well on his way to becoming a productive member of society thanks to the opportunities given to him by the great state of California.
It is terrifying to behold the way that the deportation police have begun carrying out their orders with such malicious enthusiasm. It’s obvious that the rule of law is being abandoned by those charged with enforcing it, and that DREAMers and their parents are extremely vulnerable to having their rights violated. Trump’s deportation policies are both morally repulsive and an insult to the values our nation was founded on.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.