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BOSTON (AP) — Sitting in a Boston jail for nearly six months, Francisco Rodriguez-Guardado wondered how he'd spend the holidays away from his family.
Instead, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology janitor whose deportation case became a rallying cry for opponents of President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown was able to surprise his wife and three young children by returning home Thursday.
"My first daughter came home from school, and she didn't expect me to be home," he said Friday, speaking in a park near his home in Chelsea, Massachusetts. "When she saw me, she jumped on me, she was so happy."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released the 43-year-old after a federal court in Denver put his deportation on hold, pending an appeal of his asylum case.
ICE had taken Rodriguez-Guardado into custody in July after revoking his temporary authorization to live in the country. The case sparked protests across Boston this summer as labor unions, the MIT faculty and prominent politicians, like Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, rallied his cause.
Supporters say Rodriguez-Guardado's case — and many others like it across the country — highlight how the Republican administration's crackdown on illegal immigration has swept up not just hardened criminals, but also otherwise law-abiding, contributing members of American society.
Rodriguez-Guardado entered the U.S. illegally in 2006 but has been granted temporary authorizations to continue to live in the country as he seeks asylum.
He says he fled his native El Salvador after a co-worker was murdered by gang members, but gaining permanent status has proven elusive. Rodriguez-Guardado was denied asylum in 2009 and had a subsequent appeal rejected in 2011. He has no criminal record.
Rodriguez-Guardado's case looked bleak until a few weeks ago, when the Colorado court provided the "extraordinary and rare" order to put the deportation on hold while it considers his case, a process that could take up to six months, his lawyer John Bennett said Friday.
For now, Rodriguez-Guardado isn't concerned about whether he'll be sent back to jail or deported.
"I'm with my children," he said. "This is the most fabulous gift."