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President Donald Trump sat down with AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace on Friday. Trump weighed in on France’s election, said ‘dreamer’ immigrants can ‘rest easy,’ and promised to release a tax reform package next week. (April 21)
AP

President Trump on Friday told young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — known as DREAMers — to “rest easy.” Yet recent cases show a growing number of them being apprehended by federal immigration agents since Trump took office.

Trump said the 750,000 DREAMers who have received deportation protections through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are not targets of his ramped-up immigration enforcement efforts. Even so, one DACA enrollee, Juan Manuel Montes, told USA TODAY that’s precisely what happened to him when he was deported from California to his native Mexico despite those protections.

His forced removal to Mexico in February would be the first documented case of someone enrolled in the program who was deported, a claim denied by the Department of Homeland Security.

The department said Montes violated his protective status by leaving the country without permission — enrollees in the DACA program must be pre-approved by the federal government before leaving the country. The department said he was caught trying to cross back into the country by climbing over a border fence on Feb. 19 near Calexico, Calif., where he lived. He was brought to the U.S. at age 9.

Montes’ attorneys, who have filed a lawsuit in federal court in California to obtain government records related to his case, said Montes did not leave the U.S. voluntarily but was deported two days before. Homeland Security said it does not have a record of that.

Speaking about Montes’ case for the first time since USA TODAY published a story about him Tuesday, Trump told the Associated Press in an interview that Montes’ case is “a little different,” but he did not elaborate.

Trump’s brief comment about Montes’ came after a longer explanation from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly while he toured the border this week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Kelly said Montes’ “illegal actions” resulted in him losing his DACA status, thus making him eligible for deportation.

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In his interview with the AP, Trump spoke at length about his plans to increase immigration enforcement throughout the country. He reiterated his pledge to extend the border wall along the southern border.

But Trump also repeated that he maintains a soft spot for DREAMers. “This is a case of heart,” he said. His administration is “not after the DREAmers, we are after the criminals.”

Montes is the only known DACA enrollee to claim he was deported by federal immigration officials during Trump’s presidency. Others, however, have been detained.

In March, immigration agents arrested Daniela Vargas, 22, after she spoke at a community rally in Jackson, Miss., to protest Trump’s deportation efforts. She was jailed for 10 days before being released without explanation.

And in February, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 24, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Washington state as they were searching for someone else. Ramirez, who was twice approved for DACA, remains in a Washington state detention facility because ICE says he has gang ties, a claim he denies.

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