Francisco Rodriguez first came to Boston in 2006, fearing for his life after his colleague was murdered in his home country of El Salvador. When he arrived here, he found a job as a custodian at MIT and started his own carpet-cleaning business.
His application for asylum was rejected, but federal authorities have granted him a stay every year — knowing the danger he'd face if he went home — that is, until this year. After he went for his regular check-in with immigration agents, he was told he should return in December; but then, hours later, they called him back and told him to return in a month with his travel documents ready and a plane ticket back to El Salvador.
“I think [people] feel a lot of pressure … with the new government,” said Rodriguez when he and his attorney, Nicole Micheroni, joined Jim Braude on Greater Boston to discuss the case. “That’s why they try to [reach] a statistic to … produce deportations.”
The government, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in particular, has been cracking down on undocumented immigration during the first several months of Donald Trump’s presidency — a trend that Micheroni believes may be responsible for the sudden change in her client’s status.
“It could be that some higher-up person in ICE overruled the initial decision,” she offered, “or it could be that they’re trying to appease people while they’re there [at the hearing] and then give the real result after the crowds have gone away.”
Rodriguez has not hidden away during his decade-plus in America. He has made himself visible and accountable — even assisting border authorities in keeping unsavory individuals out of the United States. He believes this visibility may be one of the reasons he’s been targeted for deportation.
“It’s a lot harder to find people that are hiding from you,” said Micheroni, who works in the Executive Office for Immigration Review at Cameron Law Offices. “When this happens, it also discourages people from turning themselves in.”
While Rodriguez’s diligence may have proven detrimental with immigration authorities, it has garnered support from many allies. Several parties, including his workers’ union, politicians and even some prominent MIT faculty, have recognized his dedication and thrown their support behind his cause.
“I didn’t expect to have everybody help me with this case,” said Rodriguez, citing his unyielding work ethic as the cause for such outreach. “I always work an extra mile in my job, and some people just do what they have to do; they don’t try and do the rest.”
The loss felt in Rodriguez’s workplace, however, would not compare to the effects that deportation would have on his family, which includes his three children — all of whom are American citizens — and his wife, who is currently expecting another baby. Micheroni outlined the grim circumstances that would follow a removal from the United States, which would also mean that Francisco and his wife would not be allowed to travel between the two countries to visit each other for at least ten years.
“I worry about that because they depend on me,” said Rodriguez. “We … take nothing from the government … I’m just trying to live a regular, American life.”
Rodriguez is expected to report to ICE agents again, possibly for the final time, on July 13.