PRESIDENT TRUMP vowed to deport “bad hombres” — undocumented immigrants with criminal records whose presence in this country is an unquestioned burden and menace. Instead, his administration has been content to seize and expel a teenage soccer star and his brother in suburban Maryland; a mother of three in Michigan who had spent 20 years in the United States; and, now in detention pending removal, a 43-year-old janitor at MIT whose three small children are U.S. citizens and whose mother, a permanent resident, planned to sponsor him for a green card next year.
None of them had criminal records. Both the Michigan mother and the MIT janitor ran their own businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. All had active, honorable lives deeply entwined with their communities. Deporting them is not only inhumane but also senseless.
So why do it? Possibly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is simply plucking the low-hanging fruit that crosses agents’ path. Possibly, the agency is trying to please the boss in the Oval Office by juicing deportation numbers with the easiest targets of opportunity.
There seems no other ready explanation in the case of Francisco Rodriguez, the MIT janitor who fled El Salvador in 2006 after a colleague at the engineering firm where he worked was murdered by a shakedown gang. His asylum application was ultimately denied, in 2011, but Mr. Rodriguez was granted annual stays that allowed him to remain and work legally in the United States, and along the way he married and had three children.
The youngest was born this month, but Mr. Rodriguez wasn’t allowed to attend the birth. He remains in custody, as he’s been since last month when ICE ordered him to report to its Boston-area office, and to bring a pre-purchased air ticket to El Salvador.
So what if Mr. Rodriguez’s removal from the country will leave his family without its primary breadwinner? So what if he has learned English and been law-abiding? So what if MIT confirmed that he was a model employee who received promotions? So what if he was active in his church, and in his children’s’ elementary school? And so what if there is no conceivable formulation by which he fits Mr. Trump’s definition of a “bad hombre”?
Since January, The Post reported, more than 105,000 immigrants have been deported, 42 percent of whom had no criminal record. During the same period last year, the number was even greater — 121,000 — and the percentage with no criminal history was the same. But many more of those deportees in the Obama administration’s waning years were apprehended at or near the border, then swiftly removed. Now, with border crossings down, the Trump administration makes no such distinctions. Whether an immigrant entered the country last week, last decade or 20 years ago makes little difference.
More than 1,000 people at MIT have signed a petition asking for Mr. Rodriguez’s release. The university’s president, L. Rafael Reif, appealed on his behalf, as did both U.S. senators from Massachusetts. Of course the ultimate answer lies with Congress, which ought to fix the immigration system. But in the meantime ICE insists that it is prioritizing criminals for deportation. If that’s so, by what conceivable logic are resources being expended to break up the Rodriguez family?