Unable To Square Deportations With His Ideals, A Montana Dad Quit His Job

He doesn't just talk the talk.

Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts knew he couldn't do it.

As a legal secretary for the Montana Department of Labor, Dyrdahl-Roberts was informed his department had been subpoenaed by  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to turn over data on the state's labor force. Immediately, he suspected that meant he'd be processing data that would be used to find, detain and deport undocumented workers.

"Our immigration system does not respect people as human beings," Dyrdahl-Roberts told A Plus on the phone. "And given the way that ICE's tactics and their priorities have changed, it's become a step too far to just kind of go along to get along."

It's true that deportations of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions have substantially increased since Inauguration Day in 2017. Per HuffPost, almost 14,000 individuals without criminal convictions were deported in 2017, up from approximately 5,000 the year before. 

Courtesy Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts
Courtesy Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts

Faced with the possibility of helping ICE identify and deport other Montanans, Dyrdahl-Roberts decided to quit his job.

The decision, which he initially explained in a series of tweets, was not easy. Dyrdahl-Roberts described his objection as a moral one and said that he received immediate support from his wife, manager and even the HR department at his work. But that didn't make it much easier. Dydahl-Roberts has a 4-year-old son and two cats. His wife is a part-time librarian while attending graduate school. He said he had about $900 to his name when he decided to put in his two-weeks notice.

Reached by A Plus for comment, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok declined to answer whether Dyrdahl-Roberts' assumption was accurate that ICE would use the data to target undocumented immigrants.

"As a federal law enforcement agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely subpoenas other local, state and federal agencies and private companies for information in furtherance of ongoing investigations," Rusnok said in an email.

Since Dyrdahl-Roberts quit, he's found some reassurance in the recognition he got for his decision. The tweet he sent out explaining why he was leaving his job went viral, and with it came an outpouring of support, job offers and ideas about how to make ends meet. 

"I wasn't expecting this to turn into something big," Dyrdahl-Roberts said. "I was making a personal decision based on my own reality." 

And yet, it did turn into something big. His story has been covered across the country, including in a profile by The Washington Post. He's been retweeted more than 20,000 times and a GoFundMe page to support his family, which was set up by the woman who lost her job for flipping off President Donald Trump's motorcade, has raised over $31,000. 

While Dyrdahl-Roberts concedes that his decision won't stop ICE from getting the data they want, he still feels good about how it all played out. 

When he initially asked for some financial help on Twitter, he was hoping he'd collect enough from the 50 or so people he interacted with regularly online that he could buy groceries for the week while he looked for a new job. Instead, his story exploded and now he's busy updating his LinkedIn while he sorts through his inbox, which is full of job offers, links to law firms and immigration centers he could potentially work at.

"People are saying that it inspired them and it restored their faith in humanity that someone was willing to do something," Dyrdahl-Roberts said. "And as they have been telling me this and sending these words of encouragement, it has restored my faith in humanity that there are still a lot of people out there who care."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Katherine Welles

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