Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has stepped in to help a father who has been deported after living in the United States illegally for years.
Jose Escobar was 14 years old when he left El Salvador with his mother and crossed the border into Arizona in 2001.
For the last several years, family members say Escobar, who has no criminal history, has never missed a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Even so, he was detained last week. ICE officials confirm he was deported Thursday morning.
“For my two children, Walter, who is 7, and Carmen, who is 2, I promised you last night that I would do my best to get daddy back, and I will,” said Rose Marie Ascencio-Escobar, his wife.
Congresswoman Lee has been involved with the family’s immigration fight for years. She said the deportation occurred despite her office’s intervention and verbal reassurances she received from local ICE officials that Escobar would not be moved.
“With one swift signature of the pen, one individual signed and flippantly in the Houston office said, ‘He is deported,'” Lee said. “We are hearing there are going to be a lot of incidents like this. This cannot be. This has to cease and desist.”
However, ICE officials say the father of two has known deportation was a possibility for years.
ICE sent the following statement last week:
"On Feb. 22, Jose Ernesto Escobar, 31, was arrested at the Houston ICE office when he reported on an order of supervision. An immigration judge ordered Escobar removed from the United States in 2006, but instead of departing the country, he became an immigration fugitive. ICE re-arrested him in 2011, and he entered ICE custody. Mr. Escobar failed to comply with his removal order, and in January 2012, the Houston ICE field office director exercised prosecutorial discretion and released Mr. Escobar on an order of supervision so he could get his affairs in order prior to his removal to El Salvador.”
Immigration advocates say Escobar has applied for immigration programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). However, he wasn’t granted either of those protections before he was deported Thursday.
“This individual is not part of what President Trump’s policies have been of deporting criminals and getting rid of the 'bad hombres,'" said Raed Gonzalez, Escobar’s immigration attorney. "Well, sadly, we’re getting good hombres deported, too."
That’s why Lee says she has written a letter to the head of the Department of Homeland Security to get the case reopened. She also plans to file a private bill in Congress to give Escobar special relief from deportation.
“I am a U.S. citizen, and I’m being hurt by my own president,” Escobar’s wife said. “I will continue fighting because I have to. There is no other option for me.”