MIT's Immigrant Janitor Detained, Denied Chance To See Son Being Born

The hard-working immigrant from El Salvador fled the country after a friend was killed by gang members and yet he was never granted asylum status.

ICE detention cell.

A 43-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador wasn't just detained by ICE, he was also denied the chance of seeing his child come into this world.

Francisco Rodriguez had left his home country in 2006 when a gang member killed his coworker, Think Progress reports. Leaving his position at an engineering firm, he came to the U.S. and applied for asylum. Despite fearing for his life if he was forced to go home, the U.S. government refused to let him stay as an asylum-seeker. Instead, he was allowed to remain in the country so he could find other legal means to pursue, under the condition that he would check in with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices regularly. In 2009, he was given a final order of removal but still granted permission to stay four times since then.

On July 13 2017, however, Rodriguez went in to check in with ICE, only to be told he had to leave the country. Since then, he has been detained in a jail in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

But shortly after his arrest, his attorney asked ICE to allow him to witness the birth of his son. He would be wearing an ankle bracelet so officials wouldn't lose track of him, the attorney guaranteed. Still, the request was denied.

During these last years in the U.S., Rodriguez worked as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while also running his own carpet-cleaning business. He has no criminal record and has done all ICE has requested of him over the years. And now that he's waiting for further judicial review, he might end up being released from custody regardless. In other words, Rodriguez could have been granted the chance to see his son being born since he would be released in no time despite his legal status.

Still, ICE Public Affairs Officer Shawn Neudauer said the agency retains the right to refuse or grant release permissions depending on the case.

“ICE routinely takes all factors into consideration, on a case-by-case basis, when making custody or release determinations,” he said. “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.”

On Thursday, dozens of Rodriguez supporters showed up at the door of the jail, asking officials to let the man go. But other well-known community figures and state leaders have also been rallying for his release ever since he was arrested, such as his boss, MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

Reif helped Rodriguez find a pro bono legal assistant and even wrote the court in support of the immigrant.

Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers Sens. Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Michael Capuano have also stood by Rodriguez's side, writing a letter to then-Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly on Rodriguez's behalf.

Still, Think Progress reports, pressure from activists and leaders may not be enough to force ICE's hand on this case.

Perhaps, what's more concerning is to think that more immigrants are now being detained for deportation proceedings while showing up for their regular check-ins than ever before.

To many such as former ICE director John Sandweg, this means that President Donald Trump may be pushing for a record number of deportations, even if his administration has to harm perfectly innocent people like Rodriguez in the process.

Quite shameful.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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