Lawyers are fighting for the man they say the United States was wrongfully deported to Haiti
Deported – after a long delay – due to a drug conviction two decades ago, Pierrilus is now in Haiti where he speaks no Haitian Creole, has been unable to find work and has little savings so that he hopes to find a way out of the increasingly unstable country.
“You have to be strong mentally to deal with this stuff,” Pierrilus said. “A country where people are being kidnapped every day. A country where people are killed. You must be strong.”
The 42-year-old financial consultant spends most of his days cooped up in a house reading self-help, business and marketing books in a neighborhood where gunshots often ring out.
Pierrilus’ attorneys in the United States are still fighting his deportation order, leaving him in limbo as the Biden administration steps up deportations to Haiti despite activists’ calls for them to be temporarily halted due to chaos growing in the Caribbean country.
Her case has become emblematic of what some activists describe as the discrimination faced by Haitian migrants in the overburdened US immigration system. More than 20,000 Haitians have been deported from the United States in the past year as thousands more continue to flee Haiti in risky boat crossings that sometimes end in mass drowning.
Cases like that of Pierrilus in which people are deported to a country where they have never lived are unusual, but they happen occasionally.
Jimmy Aldaoud, born to Iraqi parents in a refugee camp in Greece and whose family emigrated to the United States in 1979, was deported in 2019 to Iraq after racking up multiple felony convictions. Suffering from health problems and not knowing the language in Iraq, he died a few months later in a case often cited by lawyers.
Pierrilus’ parents took him to the United States so they could live a better life and he could get a better education.
In his early twenties, he was convicted of selling crack cocaine. Because he was not a U.S. citizen, Pierrilus was transferred from criminal custody to immigration custody where he was deemed a Haitian national due to his parentage and was deported to Haiti.
Pierrilus managed to delay the eviction with several legal challenges. Because he was not considered a danger to the community or a flight risk, he was released, given work authorization and ordered to check in with immigration authorities every year. .
He then became a financial planner.
Then, in February 2021, he was deported without warning, and his lawyers aren’t sure exactly why his situation changed.
Lawyers from the non-profit organization Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in Washington have taken up his cause. “We demand that the Biden administration bring Paul home,” said the organization’s attorney, Sarah Decker.
French Saint-Martin does not automatically confer French nationality on people born in its territory to foreign parents, and his family has not requested it. Nor have they officially applied for Haitian citizenship, to which Pierrilus is entitled.
Although he can obtain Haitian citizenship, his lawyers have argued that he is not currently a Haitian citizen, has never lived there and should not be deported to a country experiencing such a situation. political instability.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a brief general statement to The Associated Press that every country has an obligation under international law to accept the return of its nationals who are not eligible for stay in the United States or any other country. An ICE spokeswoman said no further information on Pierrilus’ case could be provided, including what proof does the U.S. government have that he is a suspected Haitian citizen and why the 13-year-old is are up before he is suddenly expelled.
In 2005, the Immigration Appeals Board denied an appeal by Pierrilus’ previous attorneys to end his deportation, saying “it is not necessary for the respondent to be a citizen of Haiti for this country be designated as the country of expulsion”. Decker, his current attorney, disagrees with that conclusion.
Pierrilus said that during his deportation he told immigration officials, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not where you’re trying to send me from.
Overwhelmed and handcuffed, he says he has stopped resisting. As he boarded the flight, he recalled women screaming and children crying. Inside, he felt the same. Pierrilus did not know when and if he would see his family or his friends again.
After being processed at the airport, someone lent Pierrilus a cell phone so he could call his parents. They gave him contacts for a family friend where he could stay temporarily. Since then, gang violence has forced him to bounce into two other homes.
Warring gangs have expanded their control of territory in the Haitian capital to around 60% since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, looting neighborhoods, raping and shooting civilians.
The UN warned in January that Haitians were suffering from their worst humanitarian emergency in decades. More than 1,350 kidnappings were reported last year, more than double the previous year. Murders rose 35%, with more than 2,100 reported.
Pierrilus says he saw a man driving in his neighborhood being shot in the head as bullets shattered the windows and marked the man’s car.
“Can you imagine that? This guy is whirling around trying to flee the area. I don’t know what happened to the guy,” he said.
As a result, he rarely goes out and relies on his faith for hope. He says he stopped going to church after seeing a live-streamed service in April 2021 in which gangs broke into the church and kidnapped a pastor and three congregants.
Pierrilus talks to his parents at least once a week, focusing on the progress of his case rather than the challenges in Haiti.
He was hesitant to share his first impressions of his parents’ homeland when he arrived in Haiti two years ago. “I had mixed feelings,” he said. “I wanted to see what it looked like in my time, not under these circumstances.”
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