Before he left office in January, President Obama said the deportation of Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, would move him to speak out against his successor. Now, that very thing has happened, and it’s time for Obama to follow through.
USA Today reported that on February 17, federal agents in Calexico, California deported 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who came to the United States when he was nine years old. Montes had been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA), an executive order issued by the Obama administration in 2012. DACA allows undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions to apply for renewable two-year deferrals, which allowed them to remain in the U.S. and work. USA Today also reported that at least 10 DACA enrollees are in federal custody, but Montes is the first to be deported.
On Tuesday, Montes sued the Trump Administration for more information about the reasoning behind his deportation, saying that he did not have his wallet and proof of DACA status with him when federal agents approached him, and was not given the chance to retrieve them. His attorneys said that he suffered from the effects of a prior brain injury.
President Trump has previously indicated that he would not deport the more than 700,000 undocumented workers protected by DACA. “They shouldn't be very worried,” he told ABC in January. “They are here illegally. They shouldn't be very worried. I do have a big heart.” Trump has not yet commented on Montes’ case.
On January 18, in his final news conference before leaving office, Obama indicated that he would resist the urge to criticize every Trump policy with which he disagreed, but that a few events would strike at America’s “core values,” and move him to speak. Specifically, he cited “systemic discrimination” that would prevent people from voting, efforts to silence the press, and “efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them some place else.”
“The notion that we would just arbitrarily or because of politics punish those kids, when they didn't do something themselves ... would merit my speaking out," he said. He also reportedly appealed to Trump in person on behalf of the Dreamers.
Although Obama did issue a statement in support of the people protesting Trump’s first attempt at a Muslim ban, he has not yet directly criticized the president. His clear support would surely mean a great deal to Dreamers, many of whom are themselves afraid to speak out for fear of becoming targets for deportation.
The Dreamers await his comment on the latest news.