Teenage DACA Recipient Murdered In Mexico Three Weeks After ICE Deported Him

An Iowa teen was murdered in Mexico three weeks after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) sent him back to the country he left as a 3-year-old, CNN reports.

Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco came to the United States as a little boy. Granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in 2015, Cano Pacheco – who, according to his mother, had a full life in Des Moines, Iowa – was sent back to Mexico on April 24, following misdemeanor convictions. Three weeks later, the 19-year-old was murdered in Zacatecas, central Mexico. Manuel Antonio was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” one of his friends said.

“He was really happy in Iowa. It was the only home he knew. He loved school and loved soccer. On his days off from school he would work as a mechanic,” Manuel Antonio’s mother told CNN.

According to ICE officials, Cano Pacheco was granted DACA status and employment authorization in May 2015. Although DACA protects undocumented immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, it does not give them a path to citizenship, CNN notes. DACA recipients, popularly referred to as Dreamers, can, however, obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college, and legally secure jobs.

All was going well for Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco until April 2017, when he was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge. Around the same time, Cano Pacheco was convicted on a second misdemeanor, about which ICE did not provide any details. Following his arrest and conviction, Manuel Antonio’s DACA status was terminated.

Having posted bond, Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco was released from ICE custody. While waiting for an immigration hearing, the 19-year-old was convicted of driving under the influence and another misdemeanor. ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer told CNN that Cano Pacheco was not deported. He had, instead, opted for voluntary departure, in order to avoid being banned from legally returning to America.

On April 10, Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco was granted voluntary departure. He returned to Mexico on April 24. Three weeks later, he was murdered.

“He didn’t have any problems. I don’t see a reason why he would have been targeted. He didn’t know anyone in Mexico. He didn’t even know our family until he got there. He went to the store at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Then he went missing,” Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco’s mother, who is also undocumented and fears deportation, told CNN.

Cano Pacheco was buried in Mexico. His family did not attend the funeral, since they do not have passports and would risk not being able to come back to the United States.

Manuel Antonio has a 13-year old sister, and two younger brothers, aged 10 and 12. He also fathered a son, Danian, now 1-year-old.

According to the Washington Post, Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco’s throat was slit in Zacatecas, a Mexican state which has seen a sharp increase in homicides, due to drug-related violence.

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