Francisco Rodriguez, a MIT custodian who has been fighting deportation to El Salvador, was taken away Thursday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to an undisclosed detention center. WGBH News learned today from his attorney that he has been granted a stay of deportation until Monday, allowing him to remain in the U.S. for at least a few more days.
Rodriguez showed up at ICE's headquarters in Burlington, Mass. with travel documents on Thursday afternoon as ordered, and he arrived with dozens of supporters. When asked if he was ready to say goodbye to his wife, three children and friends, Rodriguez told the crowd gathered in front of the building, “No, I don’t say goodbye. I say, see you later.”
Local 32BJ SEIU Union Vice President, Roxanna Rivera, spoke emotionally about the possible deportation of Rodriguez, a member of the union.
“I thought about Francisco today as I took my own daughter to school, as I kissed her goodbye," Rivera said. "I thought about Francisco and what he would tell his daughters today. His 5-year-old and his 10-year-old.”
Moments later, three dozen supporters walked him to the entrance, accompanied by his mother, Jesus Guardado — who is a legal resident — and his lawyer. Then the doors closed behind them. Within half an hour Rodriguez was loaded into a van at the rear of the building and driven to a detention center. Matt Cameron, his lawyer, says he does not know where his client was taken but says he hopes that continued pressure might result in Rodriguez being allowed to remain in his adopted country.
Hundreds of people, including the MIT community — from deans and vice-presidents to students — have signed a petition asking that he be allowed to remain in the United States alongside his family. U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, who represent Massachusetts, as well as Rep. Mike Capuano have also intervened on his behalf.
LISTEN to Voices from the Vigil: Legal versus Ethical. Christine Dudley Marling, Co-chair Sanctuary Committee, 1st Parish Bedford Unitarian:
Cameron says he is seeking relief from the Board of Immigration Appeals for the detained MIT janitor. He says the detention of his client by immigration and customs agents makes it clear that the Trump Administration's deportation policy is aimed especially at outspoken undocumented activists in the country, and not just those with criminal records.
“Francisco Rodriguez was just taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement," Cameron said. "He was told to appear today at this office with a ticket to El Salvador. He did that. I think the message they’re trying to send is if you speak up, you’ll be picked up.”
Cameron says Rodriguez’s detention makes it clear that no undocumented resident is safe. He pointed to a recent ICE memo unveiled by Pro-Publica.
“The shocking piece of that memo was [going from] 'may' take into custody to 'will' take into custody to enforce against," Cameron said. "We have an immigration court system right now that is overloaded with 540,000 cases backlogged, and they’re going to take in people like this. It’s outrageous.”
Among those at the rally in front of ICE headquarters were Dave Miller and Elaine Freeman Miller of Burlington waving tiny American flags, and Alexander Lynn of Boston wearing an African dashiki — people from very different backgrounds, but who said they were united against what they termed “injustice."
LISTEN to Voices from the Vigil: Dave Miller and Elaine Freeman Miller of Burlington
SEIU union officials at the vigil for Rodriguez said they feared that ICE was preparing to arrest more of their members who, like Rodriguez, are hardworking but undocumented.
Matt Cameron says unless he can get long-term relief from the immigration court, Rodriguez could be deported within days or weeks.
LISTEN to Voices from the Vigil:âÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Alexander Lynn of Boston