It wasn’t until I’d gotten home that evening that I fully comprehended what I had been told. Had the attorney really said “ICE subpoenas”? Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency rounding people up for deportation? I knew our department had plenty of data that could be used by ICE to track someone down, but I still doubted my ears.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I went back to work at 7:30 a.m. and began combing through emails, asking myself what I was going to do if I had heard the attorney correctly.

I stepped away from my desk to talk to my wife on the phone. “I may be asked to help process some subpoenas for ICE, and I don’t think I can do that,” I told her. I braced myself for A Conversation. My wife was still in graduate school, with 15 more weeks of late nights and frantic scrambling to turn in huge projects while caring for our toddler. We were hoping her master’s would lead to a new job, which could upgrade us from drowning in debt to merely struggling financially. Me quitting my job was not in the plan. I prepared to explain that I didn’t want to participate in preparing information for ICE, nor did I want to sign my name to the cover letter I would have attached to whatever I had to put in the mail. But my wife just said, “Okay.” We didn’t discuss it further.