CALEXICO – The NAACP Imperial County, Black Lives Matter committee, and the Imperial Valley Social Justice Coalition all organized a protest Saturday morning in support of Deferred Act on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student Juan Manuel Montes. Montes, who reportedly suffers from learning disabilities caused by a severe brain injury, was recently deported to Mexico.
Residents from all over the Valley gathered with the organizations to march from the corner of First Street in Calexico to the International Border Fountain. As pedestrians passed through Mexicali and went in and out of stores, the group raised their voices and asked for justice for Juan Montes to come back to his hometown, Calexico.
“This protest is about justice for Juan and the current status of DACA people in our nation,” said Marlene Thomas, committee member of Imperial Valley Social Justice Coalition. “Trump’s administration said that they would only deport criminals and drug dealers, but that’s not the case anymore.”
According to Thomas, she believes DACA students from all over the country are being arrested. “We are here to bring awareness to the community of their environment,” she said. “Everyone needs to know to always carry your proper documentation and have an extra plan in case you’re picked up and removed from our country illegally.”
During the protest, the crowd grew as others joined in while the Rev. Marco King said a prayer. Student Valeria Moran gave a testimony saying she came illegally to the United States as a young girl and gained her education while she completed her application for citizenship. Moran said she recently was admitted to UC Berkeley and asked the community to continue to speak for those students who are living while hiding, and fight for their rights as well.
A representative of the California Association of Mental Health and a representative of Congressman Juan Vargas and chairman of the Imperial Valley Democratic Central committee, Tomas Olivas, also attended the march in support of the cause.
The local coordinator of Black Lives Matter, Hilton Smith, led the crowd in protest and encouraged people to fight for their rights of due process and justice.
“As for now, this morning marks the 100 days of the Trump administration, therefore we need to gather the community and make known to the public that Juan Manuel Montez was deprived of justice and due process,” said Smith.
President of the Imperial Valley NAACP, Rev. Marco King, concluded the protest and declared to the public the huge responsibility each person has to love and protect one another.
“Every DACA student deserves the right to simply go to school and get an education,” King said. “As part of the NAACP, it’s our responsibility to cover immigrants and make sure that no one can illegally mistreat them. Don’t keep quiet, you have to register to vote and get in organizations who are willing to help the community,” said King.
“I believe that this march will be a reminder to the government that we, as the people, are watching and we are going to hold everyone accountable,” he said. “The people want dignified answers, not just fluff answers to take us out of the way, because we will remember how the government treated us and declare to the world the injustice that is happening.”
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement concerning the Montes case on its webpage stating, “After a detailed records search, it was determined that Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez was approved for DACA starting in 2014 and had a DACA expiration date of Jan. 25, 2018. However, Mr. Montes-Bojorquez lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advance parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19, 2017. According to his interview with the Border Patrol, conducted in Spanish, he entered the United States on February 19, 2017, and he acknowledged that he understood the questions that he was being asked. Departing the country without advance parole terminates the protections Montes-Bojorquez was granted under DACA.”
According to the webpage, the U.S. Border Patrol has no record of encountering Montes-Bojorquez in the days before his detention and subsequent arrest for immigration violations on February 19, 2017. The site also claims there are no records or evidence to support Montes-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on February 18, 2017. Prior to his arrest by the United States Border Patrol on February 19, 2017, Montes-Bojorquez’s last documented encounter with any United States immigration law enforcement official was in August of 2010, where he was permitted to withdraw his application of admission in lieu of receiving an Expedited Removal, the site said.