8 Clergy Arrested to Stop Immigration Policies That Tear Families Apart: Supporters Escalate Protests Demanding Release of Immigrant Rights Leader
New York, NY – At a rally attended by over a hundred people outside the Varick Street Immigrant Detention Center, eight clergy and two community leaders were arrested after stopping traffic for a half hour to prevent vans transporting new immigrant detainees to the center. The participants called for the release of detained immigrant rights leader, and father of four US-born children, Jean Montrevil. They also demanded reform of draconian immigration laws separation of families.
The Rev. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church, where Montrevil’s family worships, stated: “I am being arrested because it is a moral outrage that our government would do this to such a great man and father. These immigration laws that destroy families contradict the values we should uphold as a society. They need to change now.”
Montrevil entered the U.S. from Haiti in 1986 as a legal permanent resident. Homeland Security is trying to de-legalize him for a 1989 drug conviction, for which Montrevil already served 11 years. He has kept a clean record ever since. Detained on December 30th during a routine check-in, Montrevil is now held in Pennsylvania’s York County Prison, where he has begun a hunger strike. “I am fasting side-by-side with nearly 60 others to take a stand against this horrific deportation and detention system that is tearing families apart,” he explains.
“Our son keeps calling Jean’s cell phone, hoping daddy will pick up. He asks me, ‘Why are they pretending daddy is bad, so he will go back to Haiti?’” says Mrs. Montrevil. “Jean made mistakes before we started building a family together. Homeland Security wants to turn me into a single mother.”Jean’s 6-year-old son Jahsiah also suffers from severe asthma, which has been aggravated since his father’s detention.
A community leader, Montrevil became a national spokesperson for the Child Citizen Protection Act (H.R. 182), a House proposal that would bring due process into the deportation system by allowing immigration judges to consider the best interests of American children before deporting a parent. The proposal is part of Representative Luis Gutierrez’s recently introduced bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321).
“Jean Montrevil’s case is precisely why we need to see the provisions of the Child Citizen Protection Act passed into law–ideally as part of comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot continue to allow inflexible deportation guidelines to separate families with U.S. citizen children,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “I commend all those fighting on Jean’s behalf, and look forward to a successful resolution of this sad case, and a day when there is more humaneness in our nation’s immigration laws.”
Montrevil has received support from many elected officials along with Serrano author of H.R. 182, including U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velasquez, (all three are cosponsors of H.R. 4321); NY State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick; and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. In a letter supporting Montrevil’s request to ICE for deferred action, Rep. Velazquez writes, “My office believes that his deportation will be a disproportionate punishment to him, his family, and his community.”
At the rally, Grammy-award-winning recording artist Dan Zanes performed songs dedicated to the movement to keep immigrant families together, while political leaders including NY City Council Member Rosie Mendez, NY State Senator Thomas K. Duane, and a representative from U.S Representative Jose Serrano expressed their support.
Juan Carlos Ruiz de Dios, a Catholic leader, states: “To fan the winds of change, we are putting our bodies on the line—where our mouths, brains and energies have been for many years. Our demand is simple and reasonable: We ask Napolitano, as she works with Schumer, to include the very principle of judicial discretion and due process in the spirit of how they approach immigration reform.”
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