BY KELLEY HUSKEY
College of the Desert welcomes a variety of students, including those who may be undocumented. “College of the Desert students, including undocumented students, are encouraged to pursue their educational goals,” said COD President Joel Kinnamon. “College of the Desert embraces diversity in all forms and the right of all people to have access to quality higher education.”
A young college student, who has resided in the U.S. since age nine, has been deported to Mexico and is weary of hope that he will return to his family anytime soon.
Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was stopped on Feb. 17, by a U.S. Customs and Border agent in Calexico, Calif. Having left his wallet in a friend’s car and, therefore, unable to provide identification to the agent, he was detained, questioned and required to sign paperwork before being deported to Mexico three hours later.
Montes was brought to the U.S. by his parents, undocumented immigrants, when he was nine years old. After suffering a traumatic brain injury as a child that made learning difficult, he graduated high school in 2013. Montes was attending a community college, taking welding classes and picking crops to pay for his schooling at the time he was deported.
There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with the highest populace residing in Southern California. Estimates indicate that there are currently 160,000 undocumented immigrants living in Riverside County.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is a legislative proposal granting conditional residency to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age. DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who were under 30 years old in 2012, were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have either finished high school or are currently enrolled.
In 2012, Barack Obama attempted to protect DREAMers from deportation with an executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under this order, DREAMers are provided with renewable two-year work permits and temporary Social Security numbers, allowing them to plan for a future in the United States without fear of deportation.
Montes was enrolled in DACA at the time of his detainment and deportation. He is currently authorized to live, work and attend school in the United States, with his work authorization card valid through 2018, yet he is stuck in Mexico.
Desperate to return to the United States and to his family, Montes attempted to re-enter the U.S. by scaling a border barrier but was caught and deported again. He has filed a federal lawsuit, which could take years to play out, and in the meantime, his fate of returning to the U.S. is unknown.