BY TEQUILA MINSKY
“It’s been two years, two years, since he’s been gone,” a deeply saddened Reverend Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in the Village, said at the launching of the campaign to Bring Jean Home, last Thursday.
The day marked the anniversary since Jean Montrevil was picked up at his home in Queens and expediently deported to Haiti. Sharing the gravity of the times, family, friends, supporters, immigrant rights activists and press filled Judson’s main sanctuary.
Two years ago, Montrevil, a father with a viable transportation business, was wrenched away from his four American-born children, two who are school-age.
Jean Montrevil is the face of rehabilitation and activism and also the recipient of ICE’s retribution: ICE’s targeting of those who speak out. This Haitian-born immigrant began to speak against ICE in 2005, after ICE detained him for deportation based on a 1980s criminal conviction that he had received as a young man and years after he paid his debt to society.
He and his wife joined the immigrant rights organization Families For Freedom in 2005, led by families facing deportation, and two years later with Ravi Ragbir, he co-founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, partnering with Judson Memorial Church.
Rev. Schaper underscored what a difficult decision it was for him to become the public face of the sanctuary movement, knowing its tremendous risk.
The NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Judson Immigration Task Force and Jean’s family have begun to work together to explore legal options to bring Jean Montrevil home.
Montrevil petitioned a federal lawsuit to reverse his unlawful deportation. Filed on his behalf by the NYU Clinic lawyers (in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District —Brooklyn), the lawsuit argues that Montrevil’s deportation should be reversed because ICE targeted him in retaliation for his activism in violation of the First Amendment.
When Jean Montrevil was whisked away on January 3, 2018, first to Krone Detention Facility in Miami and then to Haiti on January 16, his children were traumatized. Through this heart wrenching episode in their lives, Montrevil maintains his family ties, regularly talking by computer and texting, particularly with his two school age children, now 12 and 16, who along with their mother continue to fight for his return.
At the campaign kick-off, Montrevil’s son Jahsiah read a statement from his father: We are not going to give up!
Later during the launch, Jahsiah spoke of how he misses his father’s presence to show him how to be a black man. A student at Brooklyn Tech, chosen in part because “my father wanted me to go there,” Jahsiah says it’s only right that his father be at his high school graduation (in 2021). Organizers hope Montrevil will return before that.
Montrevil supporters are looking toward a parallel action to the legal proceedings so Montrevil can return home during these legal actions. Wearing a tee-shirt emblazoned with “1804”— the year of the Haitian revolution, Albert Saint Jean with Black Alliance for Just Immigration spoke, “We demand the governor pardon Jean.”
Letters are being collected and submitted to support Montrevil’s pardon application, asking for forgiveness for his misdemeanor offense in NYC. The fact that his four children need him and that he has not been in trouble with the law for 30 years bolster the argument for a pardon.
State Senator Brad Hoylman reminded those present that Jean’s painful story is all too common in the Trump era: “Last year alone, ICE deported 1,144 New Yorkers—a 265% increase compared to before Trump took office.”
“We need a criminal justice system that reflects our values of justice, redemption and compassion,” Senator Brad Hoylman remarked during the morning. “I fully support your efforts to earn a pardon for Jean in New York. This year, let’s bring Jean home.”
Recognizing Jean Montrevil for his advocacy, Hoylman declared the day Jean Montrevil Day, presenting the family with a proclamation while also recognizing them for their determined efforts to bring him home.
The morning campaign launch was moderated by Jani Cauthen, Montrevil ex-wife, who has tirelessly worked to bring him back to New York to his family. Others who spoke include Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz of New Sanctuary Coalition, attorneys with NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, Montrevil’s children Jamya, 12, and Jahsiah Montrevil, NYC Council Member Menchaca, NYC Commissioner Bitta Mostofi, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affiars, and Violeta Munera, Deputy Director of Families for Freedom.