Dozens of supporters rallied outside a jail in Suffolk County, Massachusetts on Thursday in support of a detained immigrant who had a carpet-cleaning business and also worked as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Francisco Rodriguez, 43, has been detained at the Suffolk County House of Corrections since July 13, when he went into the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office for a regular check-in. In 2009, an immigration judge issued him a final order of removal. Rodriguez has since checked in regularly with ICE and was granted four stays of removal, allowing him more time to stay in the country and pursue legal remedies.
But during the check-in last month, agents ordered him to leave the country, telling him to buy a ticket to El Salvador. Rodriguez, who had left his home country in 2006 where he worked at an engineering firm after gang members killed one of his coworkers, applied for asylum when he first arrived in the United States. He was denied.
Since he’s been detained, Rodriguez missed the birth of his newborn son. He also has two daughters. An agency spokesperson told The Boston Globe that Rodriguez’s lawyer’s request to witness the birth of his son even while wearing an ankle bracelet was denied because of a potential risk to “officer, detainee or public safety.” Because he’s waiting for further judicial review, he may also ultimately be released from custody as a result, ICE Public Affairs Officer Shawn Neudauer, told ThinkProgress over email.
“ICE routinely takes all factors into consideration, on a case-by-case basis, when making custody or release determinations,” Neudauer added. “A variety of issues can effect such decisions, such as pending court hearings. ICE will often decline extraordinary requests based on the possible negative ramifications resulting in increased risk to officer, detainee or public safety.”
In recent times, an increasing number of immigrants have been detained for deportation proceedings during their regular check-ins. As former ICE director John Sandweg recently pointed out, it appears that the Trump administration wants to “set a record number of deportations” to boost deportation numbers.
Activists have been seriously concerned that President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, which seek to dramatically increase the number of immigrants facing deportation, are leading to more deportations of so-called “low-hanging fruit,” or people who follow ICE policy to check in but still get deported anyway.
Since Rodriguez’s detention last month, high-profile Massachusetts leaders have rallied in support of Rodriguez. MIT President L. Rafael Reif helped get him pro bono legal assistance and wrote a letter of support to the court. MIT Chief of Police John Di Fava reached out to ICE. And Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers Sens. Ed Markey (D) and Elizabeth Warren (D) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D) wrote a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly (now Trump’s chief of staff). Community members have also called on Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to use his governor’s pardon power to sway ICE.
Even community support may not be enough to sway ICE or immigration judges to rescind the deportation of people who would normally be considered low-priority cases, or people that save for their immigration status, do not have criminal records. Lilliana Cruz Mendez, an undocumented mom of two kids from Virginia, was deported to El Salvador despite a governor’s pardon from Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to influence the immigration judge’s decision. Lourdes Salazar Bautista, an undocumented mom of three U.S. citizen children who has been here since 1997, was deported to Mexico this week. And teenage brothers Diego and Lizandro Claros Saravia, two soccer stars in Maryland who fled El Salvador as children, were also deported this week.