Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is on the record as intentionally targeting immigrants and advocates alike for their criticism of the agency’s frequently deplorable actions. That includes its targeting of Jean Montrevil, a permanent resident and New Sanctuary Coalition cofounder who was deported to Haiti by the previous administration in 2018.
The federal government used a conviction from 1990 as its excuse to deport him. Montrevil’s cofounder and fellow outspoken advocate, Ravi Ragbir, was similarly targeted by ICE. But in a major victory last fall, the Biden administration returned Montrevil to the U.S. under humanitarian parole. That initial period was set for three months. Then late last month, Montrevil won three-year protection from deportation.
Documented reports that the First Amendment lawsuit launched by Montrevil against the federal government “allows Montrevil to remain in the U.S. with his family while he pursues a pathway the U.S. citizenship.” A court document states that he must check in with ICE once a year throughout the three-year period. It’s unclear if permanent status is assured, but it’s certainly deserved after the abuses carried out against him by the federal government.
“Trump targeted immigrant right activists like myself who were speaking out against ICE, which is a terrible, terrible, terrible institution,” Montrevil told Democracy Now following his return to the U.S. “They didn’t care about family unity. They didn’t care about what you was standing for.” His attorney, Alina Das, said Montrevil has been involved in immigrant rights organizing for more than 15 years.
“And so, when his voice made him a target for deportation in 2018 and he was deported to Haiti, that movement lived on,” Das said. “He taught us to keep fighting. And so, with his church, with Families for Freedom, with the New Sanctuary Movement, with so many others, we didn’t give up, and we’ve fought until he’s here.” Helping Montrevil’s cause was a pardon for the 1990 convictions from former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam last summer.
Montrevil’s cofounder Ragbir was similarly targeted by ICE in 2018. He was detained during what was supposed to be a routine ICE check-in, known as a “silent raid.” It sparked protests in his home of New York City. In a ruling the following year, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Ragbir’s deportation, citing a possible stifling of his speech.
“They have been trying to deport us for many years,” Ragbir told Democracy Now following Montrevil’s return. “In fact, I was in Krome Detention Center with him when he was deported. We have been working as, you know, collaborators to stop our own detention, but other people’s detention, so it has been a long struggle.”
“And I’m excited that Jean is here and that he will continue to support the end of deportation for people,” he continued. “And this will be—it will be able to give people the strength and the knowledge that they can—if they fight, they can win.” Now back home in the U.S. with his family, Montrevil’s focus remains on advocating for others even as he works to secure his own future here. He told Democracy Now “it hurt my heart” to see the deportations of vulnerable Haitian asylum-seekers and migrants.
“Just, like, they need to take a second look at the policies,” he said. “To watch people walk two months on foot, walking, crossing the Darién forests just to be here, knock on your door, and then you still deport them back with their kids. And it’s very heartbreaking.”
“You cannot deport people to where there’s no government,” he continued to Democracy Now. BuzzFeed News reported in early December that deportations to Haiti under the debunked Title 42 policy risked violating U.S. and international law. Americans in Haiti had already been warned by the State Department to leave as soon as possible. “There is no government in Haiti,” Montrevil said. “The country is being run by gang members. Gangs are everywhere ... You know, it’s terrible. And the government know that. They know that.”