After living in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Jean Montrevil, Haitian immigrant rights activist and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was deported back to his country less than two weeks after he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, agents.
In an interview with Democracy Now on Wednesday, Montrevil confirmed he has a pending legal appeal in U.S. courts. For this reason he did not expect his rapid deportation to Haiti. Speaking of his arrest he said it was "two days of hell [...] two days straight with no food and no explanation."
When asked about his first days back in Haiti, Montrevil responded that he is in shock over not seeing his children. "My children, they are my life [...] My heart is broken," he lamented. He and other recent ICE targets believe their deportation proceedings are a result of their activism, but Montrevil stresses that he doesn't regret his work with the coalition.
Montrevil was convicted in the nineties of possession of cocaine, but was allowed to remain in the country after serving 11 years in prison. Since his release he had no further encounters with law enforcement officials until four ICE officers arrested him on his way to work on Jan. 3. Montrevil has four children who live in New York and has lived in the United States for 30 years.
Another New Sanctuary Coalition co-founder, Ravi Ragbir, was arrested a week after Montrevil's arrest. Ragbir remains under detention, pending deportation in spite of multiple calls for his release by immigrant-rights groups, clergy and elected officials.
Expressions of solidarity with Montrevil and his family have accompanied them during and after his deportation proceedings. On Thursday hundreds of protesters rallied outside Manhattan's immigrant detention center demanding Montrevil's return to the United States.
The news comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has been ramping up his anti-immigration policies in Central America in recent weeks.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security introduced a measure Thursday making Belize, Haiti and Samoa no longer eligible for temporary work visas, which came exactly a week after Trump referred to Haiti as a "shithole" country during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform.
The deportation of the Haitian activist comes just days after the Trump administration that Salvadorans living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status, TPS, will need to leave the country within 18 months. The same measure has already been taken against Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese migrants.