The lawsuit — filed by the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic — argues that Mr. Montrevil’s deportation should be reversed because ICE targeted him in retaliation for his activism in violation of the First Amendment.
A long-time New York City immigrant rights activist who was deported to Haiti two years ago today, Jean Montrevil, (surrounded by supporters above) filed a federal lawsuit this morning seeking his return to his family and faith community in the United States.
Mr. Montrevil’s family and legal team announced the lawsuit Thursday morning at Judson Memorial Church to dozens of Mr. Montrevil’s friends and supporters, as part of a campaign launch event to bring Mr. Montrevil back to the United States.
New York State Senator Hoylman, New York City Council Member Menchaca, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi, and leaders from community organizations New Sanctuary Coalition, Families for Freedom, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration also spoke at the event.
The lawsuit — filed by the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic — argues that Mr. Montrevil’s deportation should be reversed because ICE targeted him in retaliation for his activism in violation of the First Amendment. The lawsuit also argues that Mr. Montrevil’s deportation violated his constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights.
“ICE has separated Jean from his four children who are U.S. citizens,” said Jani Cauthen, Mr. Montrevil’s ex-wife and the father of his children. “Our kids are struggling without their dad, and the political situation in Haiti makes it very difficult to visit him. We need him back home!”
“Exactly two years ago today ICE deported Jean Montrevil, leaving his four beloved kids without a father,” said NY State Senator Brad Hoylman. “It’s a particularly heartbreaking illustration of the horrific deportation policies we’re seeing from the Trump Administration, which has already deported more than 143,000 people in the past year alone. I’m proud to stand with Jean’s family and friends at Judson Memorial Church to call for his speedy return to his family, his loved ones, and his home here in New York.”
“ICE deported Jean to set an example. But like any attempt to silence truth and justice, it only made him and his message stronger,” said NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “It’s time to bring Jean home to set a new example. To show the world that when we band together in love and are willing to fight for our neighbors, nothing can stop us, not even an out-of-control federal agency.”
Mr. Montrevil came to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident more than thirty years ago, at age 17. He first began speaking out against ICE in 2005, after ICE detained him for deportation based on criminal convictions he received as a young man in the late 1980s. He and his wife joined Families For Freedom, an immigrant rights organization led by families facing deportation. In 2007, he co-founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, partnering with Judson Memorial Church.
“It was a difficult decision for Jean to become the public face of the sanctuary movement, knowing it would bring tremendous risk to him,” recalled Reverend Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church. “But as a man of faith he felt compelled to speak out against injustice and inform people about what ICE was doing to separate immigrant families.”
Mr. Montrevil’s advocacy took him to congregations and cities across the country, recruiting people to the movement for immigrant rights. Numerous media outlets interviewed him over the years, and ICE took notice.
In January, 2018 ICE agents surveilled Mr. Montrevil’s home and arrested him there, even though he had a check-in scheduled for later in the month as well as a motion pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). They then misled his attorney as to his location and likelihood of deportation, and transferred him to a detention center in Florida, far from his supporters. Neither Mr. Montrevil nor his attorney were notified when the BIA denied his appeal late on Friday, January 12, and ICE placed Jean on an early morning flight to Haiti the next business day, before the courts opened to hear the emergency stay his lawyer had filed over the weekend.
“ICE surveilled, arrested, detained, and deported Jean Montrevil as part of a coordinated effort to silence activist leaders who spoke out against them,” said Diana Rosen, Immigrant Rights Clinic advocate and student at NYU Law School.
“ICE violated Jean’s constitutional rights at every turn. We need to hold ICE accountable for their egregious and unlawful behavior,” added Lauren Wilfong, Immigrant Rights Clinic advocate and student at NYU Law School.
In addition to the lawsuit, the Bring Jean Home committee announced the relaunching of two pardon campaigns for Mr. Montrevil’s criminal convictions, emphasizing that Mr. Montrevil served his time for arrests he received as a young man more than thirty years ago, but still got a deportation order on top of that. The committee called for the Governors of VA and NY, where his state convictions are, to pardon them and pave a path for Mr. Montrevil’s lawful permanent resident status to be restored.
“Jean's situation is troubling”, said Violeta Múnera, Families for Freedom Deputy Director. “As we seek his return; we also seek the dismantling of an inherently racist system that disproportionately sends Black and Brown people into exile. The campaign to bring Jean home is part of continuing efforts to return justness to a terribly unjust situation."
“Black immigrant stories like Jean's are buried so to not expose the hypocrisy and predatory nature of our criminal justice and immigration systems. Jean was punished for speaking on that hypocrisy and attempting to shatter the good immigrant/bad immigrant narrative," explained Albert Saint Jean, Black Alliance for Just Immigration organizer.
Jean’s campaign has garnered widespread support.
“They want to silence Jean but instead they’ve only sparked a larger movement and our voices are louder than ever,” added Reverend Juan Carlos Ruiz, New Sanctuary Coalition co-founder. “ICE cannot deport a movement. We demand that our government right their wrongs and bring Jean home.”