By Tequila Minsky
With the piercing sounds of sirens and traffic, immigration activists, local politicians, and clergy braved bitter weather at the prayer vigil and rally protesting the detention of Jean Montrevil.
Montrevil was picked up during his lunch break — van transport entrepreneur — outside his home near Far Rockaway. He was on a deportation order.
Demonstrators prayed and then spoke. They held placards that read: “Free Jean Montrevil Now and Let Haitians Stay.”
Four floors above, immigrants are processed at the Varick Street Processing Center at Houston Street before being transferred to detention centers in New Jersey or New York State.
Forty-nine-year-old Haitian Jean Montrevil is the father of four American-born children, the youngest, daughter Jamya, 10 along with her mother spoke at the rally.
For years, Montrevil has lived under the threat of deportation under a 1996 federal law which gives ICE the discretion to deport legal immigrants with a past felony conviction no matter how far in their past. When he was in his early 20s, Montrevil served five years for selling cocaine.
Eight years ago, he was in Pennsylvania scheduled for imminent deportation when the earthquake hit Haiti and deportations were temporarily halted. Since then he regularly checks in with ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, works and is a family man.
Jean Montrevil found fellowship, moral support and became active with the Judson Memorial Church community. He co-founded The New Sanctuary Coalition. But, the stress of multiple deportation orders has also wrought an emotional toll.
Shortly after Jean was picked up, ICE took him to the Essex County Jail in Newark, New Jersey, where he remained for two days. On Friday, he was flown down to Krome Detention Center in Miami.
His son Jahsiah 14 has written about years attending protests and of living with the uncertainty of his father’s presence. His testimony is circulating with an on-line petition to try to stop his father’s deportation.
He writes: He had to go to annual check-ins with ICE. Before every check-in I always try to spend as much time as possible with him and try not to think about the fact that it may be the last time I see him.
His worst fears may have been realized.
At the vigil, Judson Minister Michah Bucey spoke, “We’re here because there is something much colder inside.”
His Sunday sermon also addressed the issues of Jean’s detention.
During the rally, State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district includes Judson, said, “Jean deserves a pathway towards citizenship, not persecution by ICE.”
He added, “I’ll continue to join my Greenwich Village neighbors and my colleagues in government in speaking up against these unjust policies, as well as advocating for legislation in Albany.”
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick (D-West Village) also spoke.
This latest detention follows the Trump administration’s suspension of Temporary Protected Status — special immigration program for 60,000 Haitians that followed the 2010 earthquake.
On Tuesday, Judson Chief Pastor Donna Schapner flew down to Florida. “We’re waiting to see what happens with the Board of Immigration Appeals,” she said.