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First protected DREAMer is deported under Trump

Federal agents ignored President Trump’s pledge to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by sending a young man back to his native Mexico, the first such documented case, a USA TODAY examination of the new administration’s immigration policies shows.

After spending an evening with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif., on Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, grabbed a bite and was waiting for a ride when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer approached and started asking questions.

Montes was twice granted deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama and left intact by President Trump.

Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car, so he couldn’t produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn’t retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration’s stepped-up deportation policy.

“Some people told me that they were going to deport me; others said nothing would happen,” Montes told USA TODAY in his aunt and uncle’s home in western Mexico where he’s been staying. “I thought that if I kept my nose clean nothing would happen.” He asked that the exact location of their home be withheld.

Since taking office, Trump has followed through on his campaign pledge to crack down on illegal immigration by signing executive orders to step up enforcement against the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The new policy calls for expanding the criteria for detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants and hiring thousands of new agents.

Yet Trump declined to revoke the DACA protections Obama had granted to more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, repeatedly saying he had a soft spot for these young people who are leading productive lives and have few, if any, ties to the countries of their birth.

“They shouldn’t be very worried,” he told ABC News in January. “I do have a big heart.”

Even so, DACA enrollees are being targeted by immigration authorities.At least 10 are in federal custody, according to United We Dream, an advocacy organization made up of DACA enrollees and other young immigrants.

The group’s advocacy director, Greisa Martinez, who has DACA protection, said Montes’ case is proof that people like herself are at risk despite what Trump said.

“We’ve seen Trump and (Department of Homeland Security Secretary) John Kelly say, ‘The DACA program is alive and well.’ We’ve seen (House Speaker) Paul Ryan look straight into the eyes of one of our members and say, ‘You have nothing to worry about,'” she said. “And then this happens.”

Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday it could not discuss Montes’ case because of the department’s privacy policy.

After USA TODAY published the story, the Department of Homeland Security — which had refused a request for comment for 24 hours — said it could not confirm details of Montes’ deportation. Spokeswoman Jenny Burke said the department had no record of him renewing his DACA status after it expired in 2015, even though Montes’ attorneys provided a copy of his work authorization card that showed his DACA status was valid through 2018.

A group of attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Tuesday requesting that a judge force Customs and Border Protection to release details of the agent’s encounter with Montes.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, part of Montes’ legal team, said it has requested information for months but has gotten no response.

“Even in this administration, because of Trump’s comments about loving these people, the integrity of the government’s promises are at stake,” Hincapié said. “How does an immigrant family today know that this is not going to happen to them?”

The shy Montes was never a poster child for the DACA program. He wasn’t his high school’s valedictorian or a prominent advocate for fellow DREAMers.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child that left him with learning disabilities that meant a constant struggle to keep up in school and everyday conversations, according to Hincapié. Despite those challenges, he made it through special education courses and graduated high school in 2013. He started taking welding classes at a Southern California community college and paid for it by picking crops in California and Arizona.

He lived with his mother and a younger brother, who was born in the U.S. and, thus, is a citizen. His mother did not want to be named or reveal her immigration status.

Court records show he has four convictions: one for shoplifting in January 2016, and three for driving without a license, most recently three months ago.

Those convictions are not serious enough to disqualify him from DACA protections, according toU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that approves DACA applications.

Montes received renewed DACA protections in January 2016, which keeps him enrolled through 2018. That is why Montes was confused when he was approached by the federal officer in February.

“They detained me, they took me to a center, they asked me a lot of questions, and I signed a lot of papers,” he said.

Montes said he couldn’t understand anything he was signing and was not given any copies. Officers walked him to the U.S.-Mexico border and released him into Mexicali.

There, he found a friend who put him up for the night. He called another friend, who drove across the border to return his wallet and bring fresh clothes. Then things got worse.

Montes said he was jumped from behind, mugged and beaten. At that point, he decided he needed to get back home. He saw some people using a rope to climb over a section of the border wall and joined them. He was quickly captured by federal agents, questioned again and deported again.

Burke, the DHS spokeswoman, said the department had no record of Montes being arrested and deported from California as he described. Instead, it only had a record of him being caught after climbing the wall on Feb. 19.

Last week, the department suspended publishing weekly reports on cities it accused of failing to cooperate with federal deportation efforts because it acknowledged the reports had been riddled with errors.

Today, Montes has reconnected with his estranged father and works in a gas station and a tortilla mill. But he’s counting the days until he can return to the U.S. and continue building his life.

“There I worked and studied at the same time. I only had six more months to finish (my studies),” he said. “I liked it there more than here.”



‘How I knocked $120,000 off our college tab’

With four children between the ages of 13 and 21, Richard Goldberg knew financing college would be a challenge.

"Even though we started saving early, the cost of paying for all of this was daunting," he said.

When his oldest daughter Hailey was accepted to a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania – with a tuition tab of nearly $50,000 – he envisioned a lifetime of loans for him and his wife Laurie, as well as their children.

"Because of our income level, I knew we wouldn't get much of anything in need-based aid," said Goldberg, who runs a marketing agency in Montclair, New Jersey. So Goldberg tried another route. He approached the financial aid office and asked for more help. What he wanted — and got — was a discount.

The school upped their scholarship offer for a total savings of $31,000 a year, the equivalent of over $120,000 for four years of school. "It was like winning the lottery," Goldberg said, "it changed the trajectory of how many years I have to work and it allowed my daughter to go to a school that has made a huge difference in her life."

"The reality is that a lot of colleges will negotiate, they just don't advertise this," said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm.

The first thing families should do is look at what kind of aid they received and from what kind of school. "What may look like the largest offer might not be the best," according to Rick Castellano, a spokesman for Sallie Mae, which provides loans to students.

Families need to understand the difference between scholarships and loans. In other words, "what needs to be paid back and what is free money," he said. "It's about maximizing money that you do not have to pay back."

From there, do some research on your chosen school's average financial-aid package, said Joel Peck, a college financial consultant who worked directly with the Goldbergs and developed a course called "Getting Money for College." "If your offer is below the benchmark, that gives families something to shoot for."

When it comes to appealing for more aid, private schools typically have more money to spend to attract high-caliber students, Peck explained. There also tends to be more wiggle room regarding how that money gets doled out. "Once your child is accepted, your offer can only get better," he said.

Come prepared

Peck advises clients to meet with the school aid office in person and come prepared with your strengths: Any kind of achievements or things that makes you unique, places you've lived, things you've done. "It doesn't only have to be the student who has found a cure to an incurable disease," he said.

Accentuate the quality of the student and the student's credentials, added Greenberg, as well new information or new circumstances in your family's financial picture like an older sibling who moved back home after college, care for elderly grandparents, increased health-related expenses or the loss of a job.

The Goldbergs also leveraged a more competitive offer from a comparable school, a strategy that college consultants recommend.

If the financial aid packages from other schools were better, that is worth bringing to the school's attention, Greenberg said. "That could incentivize the school to be more flexible. Even a better school offering a lesser reward is worth noting — in addition to a more generous offer from a lower-ranked school," he said.

Finally, follow up with a thank you note or phone call. It's in the school's best interest to convert an accepted senior into an enrolled freshman, Peck said. "It's very rare for money to not be produced."



8 ways to avoid taking out more student loans than you need

The average 2016 graduate left with $37,172 in student loan debt. But when it comes to loans, how much student debt is too much?


While this answer is different for everyone, there are steps you can take to estimate your student loan limit and keep debt down. Before taking out student loans, consider these eight tips.


Most advisors warn students against taking out more in student loans than they expect to make in their first year’s salary after college. If the average student is $37,172 in debt, their starting salary should match or exceed that number.

As long as your salary is greater than your loan debt, you’ll be better able to handle a 10-year repayment plan. With $37,172 in loans at a 5.7% interest rate, for example, you’d pay about $407 per month for 10 years, according to our student loan payment calculator.

But if your salary dips lower than your total debt, you’ll likely have more trouble handling the monthly payments.


But how can you estimate your starting salary if you have no idea what job you want after graduation? Even if you do know your future career path, there’s no way to predict whether or not you’ll find full-time employment right away.

There is a certain element of risk here and you may have no idea what your career plans are. But before taking out student loans, reflect on your interests. And use sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Glassdoor to learn about starting salaries.

This research will help you clarify your career goals. You might decide to choose a lucrative college major with a high return on investment. Computer engineers, for instance, have an average starting salary of almost $70,000. Liberal arts majors, on the other hand, average a starting salary closer to $40,000.

You don’t have to shun the liberal arts if that’s where your passion lies. But if that’s the case, think twice about taking out more than $40,000 to pay for school.


Before taking out student loans, learn the details of your repayment plan.

How long will you be paying off loans?

What is your interest rate?

What will your monthly payments look like?

Many students feel they should go to the most highly ranked college they get into, but the cost of tuition is an important consideration. Even if student loan repayment feels far off in the future, you will have to deal with that monthly bill someday.

By understanding the numbers, you can make a clear decision about taking out student loans. If you’ll be stuck with an $800 monthly payment, consider attending a less expensive school.


Federal loans typically have lower interest rates than private student loans. Interest rates for undergraduate federal loans range between 3.4% and 6.8%. But private interest rates can creep much higher.

Plus, the government offers more borrower protections than private banks do. For instance, you may qualify for federal loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans if you have federal loans.

At the same time, the government sets a borrower limit for dependents of $31,000. Some students take out private loans to make up the difference. Since banks usually require a good credit score, parents tend to cosign on these loans.

If you’ve hit your federal limit, consider whether taking out more student loans is the right choice. The college experience you’ll get now might not be worth all the additional years of repayment  —or the potential burden on your parents.


One excellent way to reduce the amount you take out in student loans is to get scholarships and grants. Scholarships are essentially free money; you don’t have to pay them back.

There are tons of scholarships at both the local and national level. Websites like Scholly and College Board Scholarship Search help you locate funding opportunities. And this can reduce your reliance on student loans.


Both the federal and state governments offer loan forgiveness and assistance programs. These programs are for those in certain occupations — like doctors, nurses, and teachers.

To qualify, you typically need to work in a high-need or critical shortage area. Research these programs to see if any match your career goals.


Prevent your student loan debt from ballooning out of control by taking a part-time job during college. By making some income, you won’t have to keep taking out loans to cover living expenses.

Some jobs, such as academic tutor and mystery shopper, pay a good deal more than the usual minimum wage options on campus.


Finally, be careful not to spend student loan money on expenses such as monthly bills or going out to eat.

Student loan money comes with strings attached. Due to compounding interest, you’ll end up paying way more in the long run than you realize today.


Student loans can be a huge burden. Many studies show that debt-saddled millennials are waiting longer to get married or buy houses.

Before signing on the dotted line, find answers to any and all of your student loan questions. Make sure you understand exactly what your repayment plan will look like.

If you decide how much student debt is too much before taking out loans, you’ll ease the financial burden on your future self.



New York approves free tuition. Here's 10 more states with cheap college costs

With New York poised to start offering a tuition-free college education for some students, public colleges may be worth a closer look.

New York lawmakers approved the tuition initiative this weekend as part of the state budget. Under the plan — which New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed in January — the state will supplement aid for in-state residents whose families earn $125,000 or less, providing tuition-free education at all state public two- and four-year colleges.

(Tennessee and Oregon both have programs offering free tuition at two-year community colleges.)

"Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can't afford it," Gov. Cuomo said in a statement on the program's inclusion in the state budget. "The Excelsior Scholarship will make college accessible to thousands of working and middle class students and shows the difference that government can make."

The program will phase in over three years, starting in the fall of 2017 for New Yorkers earning up to $100,000 and increasing to $110,000 in 2018. The state expects it to benefit an estimated 940,000 families.

Free tuition doesn't mean zero-cost college, however. Eligible New Yorkers will still be on the hook for room and board and other expenses — and although the number of parents saving for college hit an all-time high last year, the median balance isn't enough to cover even a year of in-state expenses at a public, four-year college.

Among other scholarship requirements, students must also agree to live and work in New York for the same number of years after graduation as they received the scholarship.

But public schools are worth a closer look as you assess which colleges are affordable for your family. Even if you don't qualify for the new scholarship program, New York's average in-state tuition of $7,710 for the 2016-17 academic year makes it the 12th-cheapest nationwide, based on data from the College Board.

If you're out-of-state, public colleges are often less of a bargain, David Levy, editor of, told CNBC earlier this year. The premium for non-resident students is steep, he said, and state residency requirements can require a student to live locally for more than a year to qualify for the in-state rate.

Per College Board data, public colleges in these 10 states have the least expensive average in-state tuition:

10. Mississippi

Average in-state tuition and fees: $7,410

Five-year change: 23 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $20,260

9. North Carolina

Average in-state tuition and fees: $7,200

Five-year change: 19 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $23,750

8. Alaska

Average in-state tuition and fees: $7,130

Five-year change: 23 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $21,800

7. Idaho

Average in-state tuition and fees: $7,010

Five-year change: 16 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $21,250

6. Nevada

Average in-state tuition and fees: $6,910

Five-year change: 7 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $20,720

5. New Mexico

Average in-state tuition and fees: $6,620

Five-year change: 14 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $19,050

4. Utah

Average in-state tuition and fees: $6,580

Five-year change: 17 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $19,840

3. Montana

Average in-state tuition and fees: $6,410

Five-year change: 2 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $22,100

2. Florida

Average in-state tuition and fees: $6,360

Five-year change: 6 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $21,570

1. Wyoming

Average in-state tuition and fees: $5,060

Five-year change: 15 percent

Average out-of-state tuition and fees: $16,220


Low-income students will able to use Pell grants to earn college credit if this bill passes

U.S. Senators Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rob Portman, R-Oh., introduced a bill Thursday that would allow low-income high school students to earn transferrable college credit using Pell Grant funds.

The “Go To High School, Go To College Act” aims to reimburse early colleges for tuition and fees for qualifying high school students based on the number of college credits they earn, covering up to four semesters’ worth of credit, according to a press release on Portman’s website.


Intro’d bill to expand Pell Grants so that more high school students can earn college credit & jump-start their college careers.

4:04 PM - 6 Apr 2017

  •                83 83 Retweets
305 305 likes

The bill comes on the heels of the #TrumpBudget proposal to cut a total of $9 billion from the Department of Education, with $3.9 billion cut specifically from the Pell Grant program. As the Department’s largest expenditure, the Pell Grant program dished out a total of $28.2 billion in grant money during the 2015-2016 academic year.

In response to the proposed cuts, 576 colleges, universities, and other educational organizations have signed a letter addressed to Congress calling for stronger federal student loan and Pell Grant programs. Undersigned members include Barnard College and Columbia University.

“Recent troubling proposals to significantly cut or eliminate funding for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study (FWS), TRIO, GEAR UP and other programs threaten the stability of our nation’s higher education and workforce systems,” the letter states. “Federal student aid serves a critical role in preserving access to higher education, and enabling student success at a time when postsecondary education has never been more necessary to support the American economy.”

In regards to the newly proposed bill, Warner noted it could level the playing field of early access to college education with regards to the costs.

“Students who get a head start on college tend to perform much better than their peers, but it is a simple fact that lower-income students face unique financial challenges in jumpstarting their college educations,” Warner said in the release. “Broader access to the Pell Grant program will provide more qualifying high school students with an opportunity to get ahead before they even reach college, and push them one step closer to graduation and success.”

Debra Wexler ‪@DebraWexler_

All I accomplished was made possible by financial aid incl Pell Grants. They are investment in our people and our nation's future. ‪#savepell



11:16 AM - 28 Mar 2017

         1 1 Retweet
1 1 like

Alan Zehnder ‪@AlanZehnder

‪@SavedbythePell‪ #Pell grant (then BEOG) helped me graduate from #UCBerkeley, become #CornellEng Prof. and in taxes pay grant back >>100X

4:49 PM - 31 Mar 2017

         ‪1 1 Retweet
‪1 1 like

Portman pointed out that rising college tuition rates compounded by stagnant wage levels leave many in a tight spot.

“A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and for kids from low-income households, college can feel out of reach,” Portman said. “Our legislation would let them get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them, and help them get on track to live out their dreams.”

Warner and Portman also proposed the “Go To High School, Go To College Act” bill in April 2015 as Senate Bill 1106, which did not pass through the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy deVos is reportedly considering providing Pell grants year-round — adding “summer Pells” — but it’s not yet clear how that would work if Trump’s budget cuts go through.


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