Commentary by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….
The Blue Paper obtained ICE’s response to questions about the recent summary deportation of Key West workers holding valid work permits.
When Jean Dervil said good-bye to his wife Nephtalie before driving to Miami he had no idea he was about to enter a labyrinth; one that might actually have no exit. He was just going for a brief stop at the immigration office in Miramar. He had his 2017-2018 work permit in his pocket. This was just his yearly routine visit and he would then buy a gift for Nephtalie’s birthday, which fell the next day, and head back home to Key West.
The story of how Mr. Dervil was arrested on the spot by ICE officers as he walked in for the interview and how he was deported to Haiti in shackles left local legal and illegal Key West residents scrambling for answers.
The Blue Paper wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE], to ask why a man with no criminal record, married to an American citizen, had been deported in this manner, when he’d just been granted a renewal of his work permit.
This is the response we obtained from ICE this week.
On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order setting out deportation policies entitled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” It targets mostly criminal aliens but also those who are “subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States.”
How could that define Mr. Dervil, we asked. Obviously, once he was granted the right to work in this country, he was given a clear message that he was under no current “obligation” to leave. ICE however has a different understanding of the President’s order. This week ICE’s Public Affairs Officer, Nestor Yglesias, responded to the Blue Paper, stating that even though Mr. Dervil had been granted a work permit, valid till 2018, he was still under the “legal obligation” to leave the country.
We asked whether it was now ICE’s policy that every person allowed temporary entry under an “Order of Supervision” and granted a work authorization permit should leave immediately or face summary deportation. The answer is yes.
But what happened to the promise of going after the “dangerous criminal aliens” and to “working with” the good hard working ones? This is the answer frequently offered: ICE has inadequate enforcement resources, only about 6000 agents for the entire country. President Trump did put a priority on deporting criminals. To make it easier, he loosened the definition of criminal aliens to the extreme (one need not have been convicted or even charged with a crime, but simply “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”) President Trump signed the order and we all sat back waiting for results as ICE went about rounding up thousands of “dangerous criminals.”
But here’s the rub: When you have only so many agents it is hard to build up impressive numbers of deportations of real criminals. Real criminals know how to hide, they are dangerous, often armed and they shoot back. So, it’s a lot easier to go after the soft targets, like docile honest people who go to work every day. And that’s where Mr. Dervil and his brethren come in. They walk right into the office, ready to be packaged for ICE’s thundering enforcement for the protection of good Americans against dangerous aliens, or so the numbers would have us believe.
According to local immigration attorney, Wayne Dapser, as many as 1000 Haitian workers in the Keys share the same status as Jean Dervil. We tried to contact Dervil several times in Haiti but finally his family told us, “He cannot talk.” “Why can’t he talk to us?” we asked. “You don’t understand. It’s not that he doesn’t want to. He cannot talk … only cry.”
We are told Dervil will not be able to find a job in Haiti. He used to send money to his family there. Now he has none.
Is this deportation, without notice, really the only way to enforce immigration laws? For instance, why couldn’t aliens, who have worked honestly here in the states, be given a year’s firm notice? With no expectation of a reprieve, aliens could try to save as much money as possible, sell their car, buy a little house in Haiti, maybe find a business partner in the U.S. among the employers who have come to trust them, start a little business back in their homeland…
It’s impossible to believe that this great country of ours cannot find a more flexible and less unpredictable way to address the state of misery and distress facing our immediate neighbors.