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2009-12-31

Haitian Community Activist Jean Montrevil Faces Deportation

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On Wednesday morning, Jean Montrevil was attending a regular immigration check-in when he was detained by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE. He now faces deportation to Haiti for a twenty-year-old drug conviction, for which he has already served eleven years in prison. He has not broken any laws since then. Montrevil is married to an American citizen and is the father of four US citizen children. Montrevil is a longtime community leader in New York City and active in a number of immigrant rights groups, including Families for Freedom, the NYC New Sanctuary Movement, and Detention Watch Network. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We end today with a story of a Haitian immigrant to this country who could be deported this week. Jean Montrevil came to the United States legally in 1986. He’s married to an American citizen and is the father of four US citizen children. Montrevil is a longtime community leader in New York City and active in a number of immigrant rights groups, including Families for Freedom, the New York City New Sanctuary Movement, and Detention Watch Network.

On Wednesday morning, he was attending a regular immigration check-in when he was detained by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE. He now faces deportation to Haiti for a twenty-year-old drug conviction, for which he has already served eleven years in prison. He has not broken any law since then.

We contacted ICE for comment, but they did not respond to our query for the reasons for Montrevil’s detention.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on the case, we’re joined now by two guests. Here in our New York studio, Joshua Bardavid is with us. He’s Jean Montrevil’s attorney. And we’re joined on the phone by Jani Montrevil, Jean Montrevil’s wife. She’s at home with their children.

Let’s start with you. Explain his case. Why now? And what were the charges against him years ago?

JOSHUA BARDAVID: Well, the “why now” is a question that we haven’t been able to answer — excuse me. The charges against him years ago were for a drug conviction that occurred when he was a teenager, shortly after arriving in the United States. He essentially made some bad decisions, got involved with the wrong crowd. His father had passed away, and I guess he made a big mistake, for which he served time in jail.

AMY GOODMAN: Eleven years.

JOSHUA BARDAVID: Eleven years in jail. As a result of that conviction, he was placed into deportation proceedings. At the time he was placed in deportation proceedings, he was eligible for an application. Unfortunately, by the time his case was adjudicated, the law had changed, and he was no longer eligible. So, while the appeals courts expressed concern that he was prejudiced by this change in law, he was never able to actually have his case fully adjudicated. He was ordered deported.

Unfortunately, the Haitian government would not — was not accepting deportees at the time, and he was released and able to resume his life. During that time, he proved himself to be an incredible member of our community. He married a US citizen, has four US citizen children. He’s a loving father, a loving husband. He became very involved in his church, the Judson Memorial Church, active in numerous causes, numerous charities.

He was also regularly checking in with ICE. He didn’t try to go into hiding. He didn’t try to do anything. He continued to make his presence known to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And for reasons that are unknown, they decided yesterday to detain him and apparently intend on deporting him within the next seventy-two hours to one week.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What kind of appeals process is left to him?

JOSHUA BARDAVID: Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is any legal appeals processes available to him. In 1996, the immigration laws were reformed by Congress, and they cut off —-

JUAN GONZALEZ: And signed by President Clinton.

JOSHUA BARDAVID: Signed by President Clinton. And the laws became extremely harsh, and they cut off numerous appeals. And they also cut off discretion for immigration judges to consider things like the impact on US citizen children. Right now there’s a bill pending in Congress, the Child Citizen Protection Act, which would, for the first time since 1996, give immigration judges the authority to consider the impact that the deportation would have versus the nature of the reason a person is deportable, in this case because of the criminal offense.

AMY GOODMAN: Jani Montrevil, you’re home with the kids right now. Your children are American citizens?

JANI MONTREVIL: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you an American citizen?

JANI MONTREVIL: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did you learn that your husband would be deported? What does this mean to you? Where is he now?

JANI MONTREVIL: I don’t know where he is. I’ve been calling all over, and nobody has any information. So, actually, I don’t know. He filed for a deferred action, which basically is asking -— was asking immigration to defer his deportation. They never responded. They just detained him yesterday.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does this mean for you and your children?

JANI MONTREVIL: I’m going to be a single mother. And I was laid off from working for the Department of Education about two years ago, collecting unemployment. And my unemployment has two more weeks left of payment. And it’s going to be real hard, because his income is not going to be here anymore.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what kind of work was your husband involved in before he was seized?

JANI MONTREVIL: We have a fifteen-passenger transportation business. We basically transfer people back and forth to the airport, to day cares and stuff of that nature.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Bardavid, what could be done at this point? Now, if he has completely served his eleven years — and that was, what, ten years ago?

JOSHUA BARDAVID: That was more than ten years ago, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: More than ten years ago. Is it the intervention of politicians, of people? How does ICE respond?

JOSHUA BARDAVID: Well, ICE does have the discretion to grant what’s called deferred action, and essentially it’s a determination that their resources are limited and that they should not be spending their valuable resources on deporting an individual who has proven himself to be an important member of our community.

As Jani said, she has four children. Jean Montrevil had started a business, was paying his taxes, contributing in numerous ways. To now remove him from his family, to remove him from his community, has done a detriment not only to him and to his family, but to us as a society. We have to ask ourselves, what is better? To take a father away from his family, when that father has proven himself to be a caring father, a caring husband, a contributing member of our society, or to allow him to remain?

And the last hope is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will consider this deferred action, through community pressure, through political intervention, they will make a declaration within the next seventy-two hours that their resources shouldn’t be spent on removing this individual from the United States and taking him away from all of us.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Have any members of Congress or the senators here in New York intervened? Because it’s my experience in these cases that when a congressman or a senator gets directly involved, that there’s a greater likelihood of ICE using discretion.

JOSHUA BARDAVID: There are members of Congress who are intervening as we speak and doing what they can to assist. Whether that’s going to bear fruit, we’re not sure.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Bardavid, I want to thank you for being with us. And Jani Montrevil, best to you. We will continue to follow this case.

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