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New York Immigrant Activist Detained by ICE in Miami Might Be Deported Today

Jean Montrevil (left) and Ravi Ragbir
Jean Montrevil (left) and Ravi Ragbir Images via Facebook
Update 1/16: Montrevil was deported from Miami to Haiti this morning. He spoke to Democracy Now! after arriving in Port-au-Prince, telling the news outlet that his "heart is broken."

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Manhattan's Washington Square Park yesterday to protest the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention of two of the city's most prominent immigrant activists: Ravi Ragbir and Jean Montrevil. The two run the city's New Sanctuary Coalition, a group that helps families fight deportation. Immigrant advocates say ICE is retaliating against the two men for speaking out against the federal government. The day Ragbir was detained, 18 protesters were arrested for civil disobedience, including New York City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams.

But while New York City's activists have rallied in the streets all week to fight what they say are inhumane and discriminatory tactics, Miami has largely not noticed the two men are being held at ICE's Krome Service Processing Center in in Southwest Miami-Dade. Some activists worry that the 49-year-old Montrevil could be deported as early as this morning.

Reached via phone last night, Janay Cauthen, Montrevil's ex-wife and the mother of their four children, said that ICE has been tightlipped with information but that when she last spoke to Montrevil, he warned her he would be kicked out of the country Tuesday. "He called me maybe two days ago," she said. "He called me and told me that they’re shipping him out tomorrow."
Krome has attracted quite a bit of media attention already this winter: In December, ICE agents allegedly shackled, beat, and verbally abused 92 Somali immigrants during a deportation flight from Louisiana to Dakar, Senegal. After arrival, the plane took off and and flew back to the United States for undisclosed reasons, leaving the men shackled on the plane for at least 48 straight hours in Miami. Eventually, they were taken to Krome, where some are still trapped after lawsuits and stays of deportation.

Montrevil's and Ragbir's detentions appear to be plaintly vindictive: According to the Village Voice, ICE agents in vans cornered Montrevil near his home in Far Rockaway, Queens, January 3, detained him initially at Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, and then shipped him to Krome January 5.

According to the Voice, Montrevil moved to the United States from Haiti with a green card in 1986, but after a cocaine arrest in 1990 (what he calls a "mistake" that he's atoned for), he was sent to prison. While he was serving his time in 1996, the United States passed a law mandating green-card-holders who commit felonies be deported — he's had an open case with the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals since then. But in the meantime, Montrevil launched his own transportation company, had four children, and cofounded New Sanctuary. He was detained once in 2010 but released thanks to a fluke: One of his fellow deportees came down with a fever, according to the New York Times.

Days later, the infamous 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. Montrevil told a crowd that year that he could have easily died in the disaster had he been forcibly sent back to Port-au-Prince.

He also spoke to multiple media outlets about his case, including Democracy Now:

Eight days after ICE detained Montrevil this year, Ragbir, the Sanctuary Coalition's executive director, was arrested at a routine immigration checkin. Ragbir actually predicted he'd be arrested that day and filmed a video asking protesters to fight in his absence.

“If you are hearing this or listening to this, it is because I was taken in by ICE," he said.

According to the New York Times, Ragbir, age 53, immigrated legally to the United States from Trinidad in 1991 but was convicted of wire fraud in 2000 and ordered deported in 2006 after serving his sentence. He was granted multiple stays of removal, but his time had been scheduled to end January 19. According to the Times, Ragbir fainted last Thursday when ICE agents told him he was being kicked out of the country.

"It seems really clear to us that this is an escalation of retaliation, not just against individual rights leaders, but against the right of the movement to exist,” Mary Small, the policy director for the nonprofit Detention Watch Network, told the Times.

Ragbir was also shipped to Krome, but his lawyers won another temporary stay of removal. A hearing is scheduled for today to determine whether he'll be sent back to New York from Miami, and another is set for January 29 to determine whether ICE agents had the right to detain him.

Montrevil might not be so lucky. He has been granted no such stay so far, and Cauthen, his ex-wife, told New Times last night that ICE has prevented his sister from bringing him clean clothes while he sits inside Krome.

During Martin Luther King Jr. memorial services yesterday, Cauthen stood alongside her son in a New York City church demanding President Donald Trump do something to stop the deportations.

"We all make mistakes," she said. "If Virginia forgave him by giving him a certificate of release, why can't Number 45?"
In the meantime, Montrevil and Cauthen's 14-year-old son, Jahsiah, has circulated his own petition begging ICE to release his father. As of 11 last night, more than 10,400 people had signed. He mentioned that, because of Haiti's corrupt prison and governmental systems, Montrevil would likely be forced to pay off officials during his entry interview in Port-au-Prince or be thrown in prison. (In part because of this concern, legal experts, including advocates from the University of Miami School of Law's Immigration Clinic, have tried for years, unsuccessfully, to stop the United States from deporting people to Haiti until conditions improve.)

"He had to go to annual checkins with ICE, and before every checkin, 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," the younger Montrevil wrote. "My main goal in life is to do everything he wants me to do and make him proud. That's the main reason I try so hard to get into the best schools possible, because he pushes me so hard. He has a community that loves him and a family that NEEDS him. Being deported back to Haiti would mean him losing everything he has worked for, his family, job, and whole life is in the US."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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