Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….
The plane that carried Jean Dervil back to Haiti landed late Thursday in Port-au-Prince. With him were 250 more deportees from the United States. To put it mildly, it has been puzzling for our readers to watch our documentary about a beloved, hard-working Haitian man, married to an American citizen, and to come to the realization that it may now be the policy of the federal government to deport people with valid work permits.
It is actually so incomprehensible that many readers asked us to produce more than testimony from the family, the employer, and Mr. Dervil’s lawyer. They want to know if, maybe, Jean Dervil had a criminal record or if he forgot to register his marriage or to apply for a green card or if he’d somehow failed to abide by the government’s requirements. They want to see the documents. Well here they are. We obtained a copy of Mr. Dervil’s marriage certificate, a copy of his wife’s [Nephtalie Innocent] Certificate of Naturalization as a U.S. Citizen, a copy of her $420 Petition for Alien Relative to the benefit of her new husband, the log showing his periodic visits to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] near Miami as his work permit was renewed year after year. We also added a copy of Mr. Dervil’s criminal record. Monroe County says he doesn’t have one.
Did all of this make Dervil “legal”? Absolutely. [Click here to read INS definition of “unlawful presence”] Yet after 5 years of loyal service to Key West’s restaurant industry he was locked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without warning and deported.
On Thursday, March 9th, Jean Dervil was standing on the tarmac of the Port-au-Prince airport with little more than the clothes on his back. He was chained along with 250 other black men who, like him, were no longer wanted in the United States. We are told that the Haitian police has put an end to its practice of systematically jailing deported Haitians delivered by ICE. Five years ago the fate of Wildrick Guerrier made international news. Guerrier died of cholera in a Haitian jail, 9 days after being deported from the US. Since then the Haitian government decided not to keep repatriated migrants in jail for more than 2 weeks. Apparently, Jean Dervil made it out of the airport without being arrested, but according to the University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic, the stigma of arriving in chains from the United States has made reintegration difficult, especially when it comes to finding employment.
“Where will he go?” asked his wife, Nephtalie, when we interviewed her last week, “Everything his family had has been destroyed by the hurricane. We don’t even have a roof for him there.”
It’s easy to see how this deportation program could be organized in a more humane manner. President Trump had promised that immigration laws would be enforced but he also promised that even illegal aliens (let alone those who have been issued work permits and are married to U.S. citizens, like Jean Dervil) would be treated with respect.
But Nephtalie believes ICE is not interested in that latter aspect of the Presidents’ immigration policy. “They just took him,” she said, “We were married just 5 months ago. Jean paid his taxes. He worked 2 jobs. Why not at least give him some time to get ready to leave? I can’t even pay my rent.” Interestingly, other aliens, who are not from Haiti, have been given time to put their affairs in order before being forced to leave the country. “I was given 30 days to leave,” says Stephanie Raymond, who was ordered to leave the country after she failed to comply with one of the legal requirements of her visa.
The ripple effect of these shotgun deportations cannot be ignored. It affects more than just the alien’s opportunity to prepare himself and his family. The employer is left hanging, without notice. So is the landlord. Will vehicles be abandoned on the streets? “Now multiply this by the approximately one thousand Haitians in the Keys who have this same status,” said Wayne Dapser, Dervil’s attorney.
And that might be just the tip of the iceberg. According to Dapser, most Haitians in South Florida come under the TPS program (Temporary Protective Status) established after the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti. As long as TPS is in place Haitian’s who were in the US before the earthquake [and up to January 12, 2011] can not be deported. It does not protect those Haitians, like Jean Dervil, who arrived after that date even though they were allowed to remain and issued a work permit. However, TPS for Haiti expires this coming July 22nd and there is more than a good chance it’s not going to be renewed. “In my business alone,” said one owner of a popular Key West restaurant, “I have over 30 Haitian employees.” There are an estimated 50,000 Haitians who have TPS, with the majority in South Florida. There may be thousands in the Keys, liable to disappear pretty much over night.
Rodney Sylla, the other Haitian man we reported on last week has yet to be deported. He is still locked up in one of ICE’s detention centers, in Broward County. However his employers, Richard Hatch and Suanne Kilchar, co-owners of Blue Heaven restaurant, have hired a lawyer for him. “Let’s see if we can get him out of there,” says Hatch who said he won’t hesitate to fund his employee’s defense if something can be done, “Everyone likes Rodney. Rodney is a great guy. He’s incredibly helpful.”
Apparently under the Code of Federal Regulations (§ 212.5(e)(2)(i)) ICE has an obligation to notify aliens allowed in under supervised “parol”, like Mr. Sylla and Mr. Dervil, in writing, before revoking their right to remain in the country.
“The First Circuit in Succar examined the history of INA section 245 in some detail, and came to the conclusion that Congress’s intent in enacting that section was to spare admitted and paroled aliens the hardship and expense of having to leave the United States in order to apply for an adjustment of status to which they were entitled. See Succar, 394 F.3d at 32-34.” ~~ Zheng v. Gonzales, 422 F.3d 98, 120 (3d Cir. 2005)
Arguably, Mr. Dervil, married to a U.S. Citizen, should have received not only a written notice but an opportunity to remain in the US pending processing of his green card application. But that didn’t happen.
The current President has pledged to enforce all of the immigration laws of this country. Apparently ICE officers also intend to enforce immigration laws, but is it only the ones that suit them? It also seems ICE has decided to ignore President Trump’s stated commitment to have “non-criminal illegal aliens” treated humanely. Instead, without notice, they are ripping them away from their families and their lives and sending them back home in chains — even those that have legal humanitarian “parole” status.
Everyone we’ve interviewed agrees that immigration laws must be enforced, but very few have expressed support for barbaric enforcement methods such as this.
At one point, the public has the right to know whether the callous treatment of these two Key West workers, and countless others, is imputable to a change of heart by the President or to the actions of a rogue and opaque agency that calls itself “ICE”.