He left Guatemala as a teenager because he wanted to escape from the gangs that were recruiting him. He broke U.S. law by entering this country illegally and obtaining a false Social Security number in order to work.

Then he tried to do everything right: He got a job in construction, paid income taxes. He fell in love with an American woman, married her, and was an involved parent to their young daughter.

When Victorugo Rodriguez Tello, 27, was arrested in December by a team that included U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, he hoped his case would be resolved swiftly. He said he didn’t understand why they would bother with someone like him — eligible for a green card through marriage, with no criminal record that would disqualify him from permanent residence, living in the U.S. for more than a decade — when they had bigger fish to catch? Plus, he said, America struck him as a country with an immigration system shaped by logical rules and regulations, not intimidation.

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