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What’s worse — tearing a family apart, or not letting a man see his newborn son?

Francisco Rodriguez.Rose Lincoln for The Boston Globe

When his pregnant wife was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Monday morning, Francisco Rodriguez was less than three miles away, in South Bay, awaiting deportation.

Around noon, a doctor named Phoebe Mitchell wrote a quick note that was sent by Francisco Rodriguez’s lawyers to the people at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Dr. Mitchell wrote that Rodriguez’s 42-year-old wife was being treated “for a complication of pregnancy requiring imminent delivery of her baby. Her two young children are being cared for by their grandmother. Given the circumstances, and her lack of additional local family, we request that her husband (her named health care proxy) be released from custody.”


Rodriguez’s lawyers said they were seeking a temporary release, on humanitarian grounds.

ICE never responded, according to Nicole Micheroni, one of Francisco Rodriguez’s lawyers.

On Monday night, about eight hours after the request was made, Francisco Rodriguez’s wife gave birth to a baby boy. The baby arrived 28 days before his due date and weighed just over 5 pounds. A family friend and a social worker from the hospital were in the delivery room.

At my request, Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for ICE, looked into it and issued a statement.

“After an extensive review and careful consideration of the potential implications of the request, the agency has denied Mr. Rodriguez’s request,” Neudauer said. “Mr. Rodriguez is currently awaiting further judicial review in his case, and may ultimately be released from custody as a result.”

Neudauer added, “ICE routinely takes all factors into consideration, on a case-by-case basis, when making custody or release determinations. A variety of issues can effect such decisions, such as pending court hearings. ICE will often decline extraordinary requests based on the possible negative ramifications resulting in increased risk to officer, detainee or public safety.”


Cutting to the chase, ICE didn’t think they could guarantee Francisco’s visit to the hospital wouldn’t become a media circus. They might arrange a visit, but they don’t want this to be a media event that would present security problems.

Fair enough. But, in the name of decency, let the man see his new son.

You may know the gist of this story. Francisco Rodriguez fled his native El Salvador in 2006 after a colleague was murdered by one of that country’s notorious gangs and he feared he’d be next.

He applied for asylum but was rejected. Still, federal authorities had since 2011 routinely given him an annual stay of removal. But that changed when the Trump administration gave ICE the green light to begin deporting not just criminals but anybody they could get their hands on, including undocumented immigrants with jobs and families.

Francisco Rodriguez, 43, is a janitor at MIT and ran a carpet cleaning company on the side. He has two daughters, 10 and 5, who are American citizens, and now a son who is a citizen, too. He has the support of the university where he works, his union, and a host of people including both of Massachusetts’ US senators and his congressman.

Mellanie Rodriguez, 10, at a rally in July for the release of her father, MIT janitor Francisco Rodriguez.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF/FILE

But he has been detained since July 13, when ICE agents took him into custody. His lawyers have argued against his detention on several grounds, including the fact that his wife was in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. But ICE has been unmoved.


Matt Cameron, one of Francisco’s lawyers, is heartsick.

“You couldn’t design a punishment more cruel for a man so dedicated to his family than locking him in a cell just a few miles from his home just before the birth of his child,” Cameron said. “I am outraged and heartbroken, not only as his friend and attorney, but as an American that so many thousands of my federal tax dollars have already gone into his unjust arrest and unlawful detention.”

Over in Chelsea, Francisco’s mother, Jesus, a legal US resident who everybody calls Yessi, said her family is trying to stay positive, relieved that mother and baby are doing OK. Still, there’s sadness in the house.

“It’s so different, not having the father and husband there at the birth,” she said. “We are always missing him now, in everything. But we have to thank God that his wife was able to deliver safely.

“It’s a blessing from God to have a new life with us. It’s like a miracle, after the suffering the mother has had in losing Francisco. But despite our pain, we are well. The boy is a gift from God.”

The boy’s name is Josué Mateo Rodriguez.

In Hebrew, Josué means “God is salvation.”

If there is a God, Josué will meet his dad soon.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.