The younger daughter got on the phone. She seemed distracted.
"You don't want to talk to me? Are you busy or something?"
He told her he loved her. "I miss you so much."
"OK," she said.
They hung up. Rodriguez slumped on the park bench. Something didn't seem right.
A few days later, one of Rodriguez's attorneys finally reached him by phone. He had terrible news. His parental rights had been terminated at a hearing in October 2011, three months before. Too much time had passed for him to appeal, the attorney added. The girls' adoption would soon be final.
His three-year ordeal ended in the shadow of the 18-foot border fence.
The new parents would give them a good life, he acknowledged. There would be toys, dresses and schooling that he could never provide. The only thing left for him to offer his daughters was love, Rodriguez said.
"It's important that they know that I'm fighting, doing everything possible to see them again, to hug them again," he said. "They need to know that I didn't abandon them."
Rodriguez crossed into the U.S. in February and requested political asylum. Once again, his claim was denied. Once again he was sent back to El Salvador.
While he was detained in California, he tried calling his daughters many times.
No one ever answered.
Special correspondent Alex Renderos in El Salvador contributed to this report.
About this story:
The U.S. has deported more than 1 million illegal immigrants since 2008. This is one in a series of occasional stories chronicling the people and the communities affected. For this article, Times staff writer Richard Marosi interviewed Luis Ernesto Rodriguez in Mexico and while he was detained in the United States. Marosi talked with the girls' half-brother, Ricardo Alfaro, and several foster parents who cared for the sisters. He also reviewed dozens of pages of family court documents.