U.S. Rep. Al Green visits El Salvador to meet deported man


U.S. Rep. Al Green still calls Jose Escobar one of his constituents, even though Escobar was deported after what he thought would be a routine check-in with immigration authorities.

That’s why Green, a Houston Democrat, flew to El Salvador on Saturday to meet with Escobar in the hope that it will call attention to the plight of families separated by deportation. Another 200,000 people could be forced to return there because President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would end a temporary visa program for Salvadorans.

Green and Escobar met in a small room at the airport in San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital. They were accompanied by Jose’s wife, Rose Escobar, who has remained in Texas with the couple’s two children, as well as an off-duty Houston police officer whose airfare was paid for by Green.

Green, a fierce critic of Trump who last year introduced articles of impeachment against him, told Escobar he was committed to “doing everything we can to get you back with your family.”

Speaking to The Associated Press before the trip, Green said he felt obligated to try to help Escobar, who was deported in March despite not having a criminal record, according to his family. Escobar’s immigration court appeals have failed, though his attorneys are looking for new ways to petition on his behalf.

“If not for his place of birth, we would call him an American citizen who is all of the right things,” Green said. “This is the kind of citizen that we would admire.”

El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in North America, an impoverished nation of 6.4 million people with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The State Department warns people against visiting the country because of rampant murders, rapes and other violent crimes.

The meeting took place in the same airport where Escobar called his wife last March to tell her he had been deported.

Escobar’s family settled in the U.S. in 2001 with temporary protected status, which was granted to Salvadorans who were victims of earthquakes that year. The program for El Salvador was extended by two presidential administrations, but the Trump administration announced in January that it would end it in September 2019, saying the problems that made temporary visas necessary no longer existed.

Escobar, 32, settled in Houston at the age of 15. Only around the time he married Rose in 2006 did they realize he was in the U.S. illegally because his family hadn’t received the paperwork necessary for him to renew his visa.

An immigration judge ordered his deportation in 2006, and he was arrested in 2011 and detained for several months. After an intense lobbying campaign, ICE’s Houston field office director released Escobar in January 2012.

Shortly after taking office in January 2017, Trump signed an executive order widening the categories of immigrants without legal status who could be subject to deportation. Escobar went to an ICE office the next month to check in under the terms of his order and was detained until his March deportation, his wife said.

ICE confirmed in a statement that it had deported Escobar and that his release in 2012 was so “he could get his affairs in order prior to his removal.”

Escobar now lives with relatives in a town that’s about a three-hour drive from San Salvador. He worries about the gang members who control the streets and often accost people who have recently returned from the U.S.

Before the meeting, Rose Escobar talked about how their children were learning to cope. She said their 3-year-old daughter, Carmen, stopped speaking for several weeks after Jose was deported, and a doctor told her that could have been caused by the trauma of the deportation.

Their 8-year-old son, Walter, has slowly come to understand what happened. But shortly after Hurricane Harvey in August, she got a call from the school saying that he had broken down crying. The teacher who consoled him was herself protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program shielding young immigrants from deportation that the Trump administration has said will end in March.

Rose said she worries about Jose. The rest of the family calls him before dinner every night and before the children go to bed.

In Texas, Jose had worked his way from being a painter on a construction crew to a crew supervisor. He wore a suit and did most of his work on a laptop, which he brought with him to the check-in last February.

Now, he works as a laborer whenever a job is available, often lifting heavy stones and putting them into place for houses and buildings. He stays in his room most of the time.

“All of your sacrifices that you make for so many years, you see them taken away from you,” he said Saturday. “After deportation, all of that is gone.”

Rose Escobar is a hospital receptionist and relies on savings that are slowly dwindling. She questions whether anyone who has spent years in the United States could handle returning to El Salvador.

“For someone in Jose’s case, can they adjust over there?” Rose said. “No. It’s almost been a year, and he’s still in his room, and it breaks my heart.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Martinez Jones, Guerra Gamble compete in 459th District Court runoff
Martinez Jones, Guerra Gamble compete in 459th District Court runoff

A Travis County-appointed associate judge and a longtime Austin attorney are competing in Tuesday’s runoff election to run Travis County’s new 459th Civil District Court. Aurora Martinez Jones, an associate judge, is pursuing a bigger judiciary role with increased responsibilities. She emerged atop the three-candidate March primary with...
Kushner tower, drowning in debt, gets lifeline with ties to Qatar
Kushner tower, drowning in debt, gets lifeline with ties to Qatar

The company controlled by the family of White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its troubled flagship building by a company with financial ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal.  Charles Kushner, head of the Kushner Cos., is in advanced talks with Brookfield Asset Management over...
‘Bigger than Watergate’? Both sides say yes, but for different reasons
‘Bigger than Watergate’? Both sides say yes, but for different reasons

President Donald Trump and his critics actually agree on something. If a column he read in a magazine is correct, he wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “this is bigger than Watergate!”  Never mind that he was thinking of something different than his adversaries when they use the same phrase. Trump was referring to what he deems a deep-state...
Show starring Avenatti and Scaramucci is being pitched to TV executives
Show starring Avenatti and Scaramucci is being pitched to TV executives

A television show featuring Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who is suing President Donald Trump on behalf of a pornographic film actress, and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was pitched to two cable networks in recent weeks, people briefed on the matter said Thursday.  Prominent television agent Jay Sures discussed with...
Trump joins push by allies to expose an FBI source
Trump joins push by allies to expose an FBI source

President Donald Trump's allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be "bigger than Watergate!"...
More Stories