HOUSTON (AP) — The deportation of a Houston-area father after his temporary reprieve was revoked following new enforcement rules enacted by President Donald Trump is an example of a U.S. immigration policy that's going after good people, his attorney said Friday.
Jose Escobar, a 31-year-old husband and father of two, was returned to his home country of El Salvador on Thursday. He had been detained last week when he went to federal offices in Houston to provide immigration officials with an annual update on his work status.
"This individual is not part of what President Trump and all his policies have been of deporting criminals, getting rid of the bad hombres," Raed Gonzalez, Escobar's attorney, said at a news conference. "Well sadly, we're getting good hombres deported, too. This has to change."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said Escobar had failed to comply with earlier orders to leave the country and that he was an "immigration fugitive."
After Escobar came to the U.S. as a 15-year-old, he was granted temporary protection related to not being able to safely return to his country. But after his protection was not renewed by mistake, a judge ordered him removed in 2006.
In a statement, ICE said agents arrested Escobar in 2011 but he was granted "prosecutorial discretion" in 2012, meaning he was released "so he could get his affairs in order prior to his removal to El Salvador."
Escobar's family says his deportation was a surprise as they believed his case hadn't been decided and his attorney was still filing paperwork in the case.
His wife, Rose Escobar, 30, said she would keep fighting for her husband's return to the U.S.
"Sadly we are not the only families that are being affected at this moment," she said. "I am a U.S. citizen and I am being hurt by my own president. ... My husband is not a criminal. He's a good father."
She said her husband, who worked as a manager for a paint company, is staying at a home in El Salvador that belongs to her mother but that he is afraid being in a country he hasn't known since he was 15.
Various immigrant rights groups have said cases similar to Escobar's, in which individuals with no criminal records or who've committed minor violations are being picked up by ICE agents, are taking place around the country.
Under new enforcement rules issued last month by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, any immigrant charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, has become an enforcement priority for federal authorities.
Gonzalez said his next step will be to file a motion to reopen Escobar's case in which he will argue that Escobar might have received bad advice from his previous lawyer that resulted in his deportation order.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said she is working on filing a private bill in Congress that would deal specifically with Escobar's case. The filing of such a bill could help with Escobar's appeals process, she said.
"Lawyers are telling us these cases are mushrooming," Lee said.
She said the head of the ICE field office in Laredo, where Escobar was being held, had assured her that he would not be deported.
ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said he was not aware of any agreement that had been made between ICE management and Lee.
Immigrations experts say a resolution of Escobar's case in his favor does not look promising.
Escobar's reprieve was at the discretion of ICE and people in such situations are always going to be living under some uncertainty, said Angelique Montano, an immigration attorney at the Quan Law Group in Houston.
"And maybe people being cut off of these benefits is perhaps happening more with Trump, but that's been the case regardless," she said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70