HOUSTON – Immigration officials say time is up for a father who has been 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 five years, family members say Escobar, who has no criminal history, has never missed a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Even so, his wife tells KHOU 11 he was led away in handcuffs on Wednesday.
“When I asked them why, the only answer they gave me was, ‘We’re just following the new rules that our president wants us to follow’,” said Rose Marie Ascencio-Escobar.
“This is the main reason why so many people are living in the shadows, because they’re scared. If you see a crime, are you going to report it? No, they might ask me about my status.” she said.
However, ICE officials say the father of two has known deportation was a possibility for years.
ICE sent the following statement Thursday afternoon.
“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. At this time, Mr. Escobar will be processed for removal from the United States.”
Now, Escobar’s family is in a race against the clock, working with immigration advocates.
“There were several things he did to try and fix his immigration status, but unfortunately the laws are set up in a way where he was not able to in the period of time they allotted him,” said Cesar Espinosa, Executive Director of FIEL Houston.
Espinosa added, “In a city like Houston, there are about 500,000 undocumented people. That means one out of every eight Houstonians is undocumented roughly. Yes, we all know we can be deported at one point or another, but we’re here. We’re contributing to the economy. We’re making Houston great. We’re making America great.”
Escobar’s wife is praying her husband will be granted more time to fix his immigration status for good.
“I just feel like the system failed me as an American who is trying to live right with my husband,” said Ascencio-Escobar. “I want him to stay. I don’t want him to get deported. My life will completely change if he gets deported. My kids lives will change.”
Escobar did apply for protection under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
However, immigration advocates say his application was denied, because Escobar didn’t have a high school diploma from an accredited school.