An Iowa high school student who was sent back to Mexico by immigration authorities was killed three weeks after he returned to his home country, The Des Moines Register reported Thursday.
Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco, 19, was expected to graduate from high school in Des Moines in May, but he drew the scrutiny of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after he was convicted of a misdemeanor drug charge last year. The student, who was brought to the U.S. without a visa by his family when he was three years old, had been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, under President Barack Obama.
After his conviction, as well as another for a separate misdemeanor charge, a judge vacated his protections.
“Based on his criminal convictions, his DACA status was terminated making him amenable to deportation,” Shawn Neudauer, an ICE spokesman, told The Hill.
ICE told the Register that Pacheco then requested a voluntary departure to return to Mexico “under safeguards” while his immigration hearing was pending. Leaving the country voluntarily under such terms carries penalties less stiff than a formal deportation, and The Hill notes he would have been allowed to return legally with a visa.
Pacheco returned to Zacatecas, Mexico, on April 24 with an ICE escort. However, weeks later, he was out to get food with a friend of his cousin and both were killed. Pacheco had his throat slit.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” another friend, Juan Verduzco said at his memorial service earlier this month, according to the Register. “I kind of don’t believe it still. It still hasn’t hit me... I don’t understand.”
Verduzco said Pacheco had suffered from depression and drinking issues since his father was sent to prison several years ago, but described him as upbeat and always smiling. ICE noted that Pacheco had been convicted of driving under the influence while awaiting his hearing.
President Donald Trump moved to end DACA in September and gave Congress six months to come up with a replacement to the program for the 800,000 DREAMers in America. Various efforts have stalled in Congress as lawmakers fight about a potential solution that includes Trump’s demands for increased border security and curbing family-based immigration.
But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed optimism this week that the body would soon force a vote on legislation.
“I really do believe that there’s a sweet spot here,” he told reporters earlier this week. “When we fix DACA we want to fix it permanently so we don’t have another DACA problem down the road.”