Jose Escobar earned good money — close to $130,000 a year — working in construction to provide for his wife and two kids in Houston. He paid his taxes. He committed no crimes. He lived in the United States for 17 years.
But ever since his mother missed a deadline to file some paperwork to maintain his residency status when he was a teenager, Jose, who grew up in El Salvador, was technically undocumented. While he waited for the government to get his status in order, Jose checked in with immigration services regularly. He wasn’t hiding from anyone.
Then, a couple of months ago, at one of his routine check-ins, immigration agents turned his family’s life upside down. With barely an explanation, they deported Jose back to El Salvador.
Now, Jose lives his life in a veritable cage. He can’t leave his aunt’s house without his nephew with him to act as a bodyguard, because the local gangs might mistake an unfamiliar face for a rival and murder him in the street. He does nothing all day but pace around the house, take care of his aunt’s parakeets, and talk to his wife, Rose, and his kids on Facetime. He’s thinking about getting a job at a call center for $200 a week. Back home in Houston, Rose struggles to keep her once solidly middle-class family from slipping into poverty.
The Escobars’ lives have been destroyed over a missed deadline from more than a decade ago and President Trump’s revolting impulse to pander to racists. Jose Escobar presents no threat to public safety; he’s the very picture of the American Dream. But in Trump’s America, none of that matters.
“When this new administration came in,” Rose explained, “it’s a brand new playground.”