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The Faces of Detention and Deportation: Jean Murat Montrevil

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Today Jean Murat Montrevil is scheduled to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement as required under the Intensive Supervision and Appearance Program. What Jean knows for sure is that the supervised check-ins have been a constant in his life for the past several years. What remains uncertain for Jean is whether this visit will be the one when he is taken into custody by ICE and deported to Haiti, the country of his birth.

When Jean Montrevil arrived in the United States in 1986, he was 17 years old and a legal permanent resident, sponsored by his father and his step-mother who was a U.S. citizen. Accompanied by his twin sister and older brother, Jean would consider Brooklyn, New York as home from that point onward.

Jean faced challenges adjusting to life in the United States after a prolonged separation from his father; Jean's mother had died when he was still a child. Soon Jean fell in with the wrong crowd and, in 1989, he was arrested for selling cocaine in Virginia. Jean was charged with possession with intent to sell and conspiracy with intent to sell, since he was arrested with someone else in the car. Upon conviction, Jean received a sentence of thirty years.

In 1992, while Jean was serving his sentence, Immigration and Naturalization Service initiated deportation proceedings against him, and in 1994 he was ordered deported. Even so, the authorities never came to get him and, by 2000, Jean was released under 'supervised parole' for a period of five years.

In 2005, on the last day of supervised parole, Jean presented himself for the required check-in at the parole office on Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn. Officials from ICE were awaiting his arrival. Jean was taken into custody and spent six and a half months in an immigration detention facility in Passaic, New Jersey before being transferred to another facility in Maryland. Haiti was deemed politically unstable at the time and immigration regulations stipulate that, if after six months in detention an individual cannot be repatriated due to political circumstances in the receiving country, he/she must be released. So Jean was released under the Intense Supervision Appearance Program. ISAP permits individuals awaiting disposition of their immigration cases to be released into the community on condition that they are closely monitored by way of electronic bracelets, frequent check-ins with a caseworker or curfews. Jean wore an ankle bracelet for almost ten months and was required to check in once per month at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan.

In an interview earlier this week at Judson Memorial Church, I asked Jean about the preparations he is making in anticipation of his deportation and what impact this is having on him and his family. (After his release in 2000, Jean got married. He and his wife are raising their four children, ages 2 to 19). Jean explained that he has been shipping barrels to Haiti, filled with clothing and other items he will need for day-to-day living upon his return. Jean noted that he is consumed by separation anxiety at the mere thought of leaving behind his wife and four children - all U.S. citizens.

Jean pointed out that his being deported can result in severe economic hardship for his wife and family. Although his wife is a certified school teacher, she was laid off last year. Jean has also endured financial setbacks of his own. Jean had taken over Filomena Religious Store, a business established by his father on Church Avenue in Brooklyn, and an integral part of the Caribbean-American community for over thirty years, then turned it into a successful wholesale enterprise. Last year, however, Jean was forced to sell the building and liquidate the business. Now he and his family run J & J Van Service, a fifty passenger van service for short or long-distance travel.

So where does this leave Jean Montrevil? Notwithstanding his previous brush with the law, Jean is a law abiding individual who has paid his debt to society. Jean has never displayed any violent tendencies nor does he pose a risk to the community. Instead of expending its resources to deport Jean to Haiti, ICE should exercise its discretion to grant Deferred Action or, in other words, an indefinite postponement of deportation.

Arlene M. Roberts is the author of The Faces of Detention and Deportation: A Report on the Forced Repatriation of Immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean.

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