Montrevil was arrested by ICE on December 30, 2009 after a regular immigration check-in. His crime? Under immigration laws enacted in 1996, all non-citizens convicted of felonies, even retroactively, are subject to deportation. ICE did Montrevil in for a twenty-year old drug conviction for which he had already served 11 years in prison.
His U.S. citizen wife and children knew little about his whereabouts. Following his detention, supporters organized rallies and held vigils. They also used Change.org to launch a petition to free Jean Montrevil, which garnered over 2000 signatures. Less than a week after his arrest, 19 people, including eight clergy members, were arrested outside Varick Street Detention Center in New York.
ICE transferred Montrevil to a regular prison facility in York, Pennsylvania, where he launched a hunger strike. He was close to getting deported, but the recent disaster in Haiti came as a blessing when deportations were canceled. His lawyer negotiated for a release and now Montrevil is out of detention for the time being. Temporary Protected Status for Haiti does not help Montrevil, given his previous felony conviction, but his supporters are hopeful for a new ruling or deferred action.
There was no justifiable reason for ICE to deport Montrevil away from his family save for unjustifiable immigration laws — he had lived here for more than 20 years, become a legal permanent resident, served his time, and was an active member of the community. We are glad Jean is now back home with his family, where he belongs.
Photo Credit: Mizue Aizeki