BY REV. DONNA SCHAPER | Tuesday afternoon, a little after 4 p.m., in an immigration courtroom at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City, Jean Montrevil’s request for 201(c) relief from deportation, a years-long effort to finally end his long ordeal, was granted by an immigration judge, who became very emotional as he granted Jean’s request for a “waiver.” Jean burst into tears, as did the entire courtroom.
Judge Kyle Dandelet cited Jean’s pardon from former Governor Northam —which some of you in the Virginia United Church of Christ were instrumental in helping come about — as well as Jean’s support from his community, and his exemplary record over the past 30 years. In other words, on Tuesday Jean, who is now 54, became a man no longer under threat of deportation, something that began more than three decades ago with his arrest at age 21 during the War on Drugs.
Eighty people, mostly from Greenwich Village’s Judson Memorial Church, Families for Freedom and the New Sanctuary Coalition — of which Jean is a founder — were present in the courtroom, taking turns to watch the four-hour procedure. Thirty were allowed in at any given time.
Jahsiah Montrevil, Jean’s 22-year-old son, gave powerful testimony that brought tears to the judge’s eyes. Jahsiah teaches Sunday school at Judson Memorial Church and formed the Black Student Union at his community college.
After the decision, a grateful Jean told reporter Paul DeRienzo of the Torch, “Oh, my God! It’s about time!”
(For DeRienzo’s online radio report on the decision, click here.)
We have all been part of a remarkable, one-of-a-kind story that needs to be repeated thousands of times over. So raise a glass to Jean, and to yourselves. And to his remarkable lawyers.
I never thought this day would come. I visited him in jail in York, Pennsylvania, when they tried to deport him in 2010; received him at Judson when he was released from York (after a massive campaign, including two New York City congresspeople); visited him in Miami — before they DID deport him to Haiti — and then visited him in Haiti AFTER he was deported under then-President Trump. (Back in Haiti, Jean named his restaurant Donna’s — but the earthquake ended it. ) I called him every week. I learned WhatsApp. We are now sponsoring his girlfriend, Bella, for temporary status in the U.S. as part of the Biden program for Haitian refugees.
It’s an amazing story —and I feel privileged to be a part of it, and to be Jean’s friend.
Thanks to all of you who have been a part of it!
Schaper is the former senior minister, Judson Memorial Church. She currently teaches leadership at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace (formerly Hartford Seminary).