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Deportation of Two Legal Restaurant Workers: The Beginning of the End?

<!-- HTML Credit Code for Can Stock Photo --> <a href="http://www.canstockphoto.com">(c) Can Stock Photo / tana</a>

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. 

Jean and Nephtalie on their wedding day

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”.

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7 thoughts on “Deportation of Two Legal Restaurant Workers: The Beginning of the End?

  1. Naja & Arnaud,

    Magnificent article and Follow-up…We’re honored and privileged to have “Responsible Journalists and Editors” such as yourselves; internally possessing integrity, courage and credibility, as the building blocks of their profession, humanely serving the readers of Key West, South Florida and The World…

    Words are insufficient in describing my gratitude. Thank you so very much…

  2. Countless laws, big taxes supporting numerous law enforcement agencies, and we see totally misdirected efforts and abuse of power based on what? Racial bias, perhaps? Or did Dervil marry the object of an ICE agent’s affection? None of this makes sense, but the investigative reporting is excellent.

  3. From what I am seeing from the documents they were not citizens when they got married. Shortly after she became a citizen but he did not. Seems like she was trying to get him in the easy way. Why did he not do as her and become a citizen ? What I suspect is someone caught this and put a stop to it. Had they not caused the attention he likely would still be here.

    1. Jim, prior to becoming a Citizen one must first become a “permanent resident” and they must be a “permanent resident” for 5 years before applying for Citizenship [or 3 years if they are married to a Citizen]. Nephtalie was a “permanent resident” [she came here when she was 16 with her family]. Her mother had become a Citizen and her mother applied for her daughter to become a “permanent resident” and after 5 years Nephtalie was able to apply for Citizenship and she also became a Citizen. When they were married her application for Citizenship had been pending and it was awarded shortly after their marriage. So, Dervil had no guarantee when he married Nephtalie that he would be marrying a US Citizen although it was probable since she is a law-abiding citizen and there is no reason not to allow her to become a Citizen. Dervil, not being a “permanent resident” for at least 3 years could not have applied for Citizenship. His first step is to become a “permanent resident.” His wife, Nephtalie, applied for him to become a “permanent resident” after they were married, after she became a citizen. That application for Dervil to become a “permanent resident” is now open awaiting processing. The other Haitian man in the story, Rodney Sylla, is not married to an American citizen. Both men were given permission by ICE to live and work in the US under a humanitarian policy. [Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, a Cholera epidemic thereafter, then a major Hurricane last year which exacerbated the Cholera epidemic which is an ongoing problem.] ICE decided to revoke that permission which they have discretion to do. The issue is this: Should ICE have given them notice [it appears the law says yes — and human decency for sure says yes] or should ICE have whisked them away like criminals without allowing them to organize their lives and give notice to family, employers, landlords, etc and should ICE have sent Dervil home in shackles? President Trump said that even those here “illegally” [those who sneak across a border or stay after their tourist visa has expired and have no permission to be here and no work permit – unlike these guys who were here legally] who were otherwise law-abiding would be treated humanely, with respect, and he said he had no intention to throw them into detention centers. So did Trump have a change of heart or is ICE going too far when it comes to treatment of law-abiding aliens who do not have “permanent residency” status?

      1. Sounds like ice did this without Trump.
        So now what can happen ? Will his application still be viewed or what ?

        Yes, very cruel way to handle it and without even a hearing

        Not at all sure how it works as I was lucky and born here.

        1. Thank you for getting to this point in the discussion. So many people on our Facebook page are getting stuck on the meaning of the term “legal” claiming these men are “illegal” [justifying everything] because they are not citizens or permanent residents. I think everyone understands that its ok for the US to decide that Haitians without Temporary Protective Status who were “parolled” into the country [meaning given permission to stay and given work permits] will now be sent home. The government can make policy changes. But wouldn’t we feel better about it if ICE had effected that transition differently? And let us not forget that these are not the priority “criminals” that we hear should be ICE’s main focus…

  4. So is this just the beginning of many being deported out of Key West ? From looking at the documents it does seem he was here before the cut off date. He is wearing an orange shirt so assume was in custody. Does show he had an address in KW but that means very little. So unless I am reading this wrong he was living in KW for more than the required 5 years so should been able to apply for citizenship. What other requirements are needed ?

    Can see where this could have high impact on employers that need low income workers. Maybe this will result in higher wages for workers. One thing for dam sure is that without help many places will close doors. Long term effect on KW will soon be coming What upsets us the most is low wages for workers but high prices for tourist. With most places costing $300 or more per day and food and drinks far from cheap.

    Do hope you can keep us updated

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