Lawyers for Paul Pierrilus, a New York financial consultant, said he was deported to Haiti on Tuesday despite not being born there and never even setting foot in the country, according to the Miami Herald.
Guerline Jozef, executive director of The Haitian Bridge Alliance, told the Haitian Times that the decision to deport Pierrilus was heartless considering he was born in St. Martin and brought to the United States at the age of 5 by his Haitian parents.
“Deportation flights to Haiti in the midst of a global pandemic and a major uprising in the country [are] unconscionable,” she told the news outlet, referencing the deep political problems the country is currently facing amid protests and the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite efforts to stop the 40-year-old’s deportation two weeks ago, officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put him on a flight to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday morning with 63 other people.
The case has caused confusion because both the governments of Haiti and France previously refused to take him after being asked by U.S. authorities.
After many interventions of the @EmbassyOfHaiti Mr Paul Pierrilus was removed from the flight to PAP. We will continue to cooperate with relevant US authorities but within the limit of established principles. Mr Pierrilus isn’t a Haitian Citizen & thus can’t be sent to Haiti.
— Bocchit Edmond (@BocchitEdmond) January 19, 2021
The Ambassador to Haiti, Bocchit Edmond, confirmed on Twitter that Pierrilus should not be sent to Haiti.
ICE officials arrested the financial adviser on Jan. 11 when he went to an immigration office to check in with an officer. Pierrilus has a 2003 drug conviction on his record and served his time, but a judge ordered him to be deported because of his uncertain immigration status.
ICE was prepared to put Pierrilus on one of the last immigration flights to Haiti done under the administration of former President Donald Trump, but immigration advocates and New York Congressman Mondaire Jones managed to get him off of the Jan. 19 flight.
With the inauguration of President Joe Biden and his decision to put a moratorium on some deportations for 100 days, Pierrilus’ family members in Spring Valley, New York, believed he would be safe. But a judge in Texas threw out the Biden order and ICE officials moved quickly to deport Pierrilus.
“At 3 a.m., my staff woke up to an urgent call. Suddenly, and in the dead of night, ICE was set to deport Rockland County’s beloved Paul Pierrilus to Haiti, a country where he has never been. And there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is not legal to send Paul to Haiti, because he is not a Haitian citizen. This fact is not in dispute. Don’t take it from me — take it from the Haitian Ambassador,” Jones wrote on Twitter, sharing a message directly from the ambassador of Haiti decrying the deportation.
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Just two weeks ago, my staff successfully halted Paul’s deportation at the last second, after ICE failed to provide evidence that his deportation was valid. https://t.co/Hu1QVAokpQ
— Rep. Mondaire Jones (@RepMondaire) February 2, 2021
“My mother was devastated and distraught. I am a fighter, and I wasn’t going to give up on my family,” his sister, Neomie Pierrilus, told The Washington Post before she contacted Jones, who was able to stop the first attempt to deport Pierrilus.
Nicole Phillips, a lawyer with the Haitian Bridge Alliance, slammed the decision to send Pierrilus to a country he was not born in. She also said that ICE had no reason to deport him, and they had the power to simply decide who should stay and who should go.
“It remains within ICE’s discretion whether or not to deport people,” Phillips said. “In their hastiness and desire to rid the United States of Black immigrants from Haiti, they are doing everything they can to deport as many Haitians as they can, and Paul was one of them,” Phillips told the Miami Herald. “They knew he was stateless. They knew he didn’t have a Haitian passport. It’s our understanding that he did not have travel documents to return to Haiti and yet they deported him there anyway,”
She went on to explain that even when Pierrilus tried to explain his situation to the ICE officers, they would not listen to him, eventually forcing him onto the plane against his will.
“Four ICE agents wrestled with him to force him to get off the airplane to stay in the country. He kept pleading over and over again, ‘Show me the travel document.’ And nobody did. The United States government made a huge error by deporting a stateless person, in this case to Haiti. So they need to do everything they can to fix this problem. This is not a country that he should have ever been deported to,” Phillips added.
The newspaper reported that Pierrilus was born on the French-controlled part of St. Martin, a tiny island in the Caribbean next to Anguilla. His parents are Haitian but he does not speak Haitian Creole and knows no one on the island. Even though his parents became naturalized citizens, he was not able to, according to Rockland Journal News.
Phillips said Pierrilus was staying with a friend of a friend after being processed by the country’s judicial police.
Jozef told the Miami Herald that deeper questions needed to be asked about Haiti could process someone with no legal documents and no legal ties to the country.
“How is it that the Haitian government agreed to receive a man that they have previously clearly stated is not a Haitian citizen? Isn’t the Haitian government supposed to receive people who are coming into the country; don’t they know who is coming into the country or is it carte blanche that they have given to whatever ICE wants?” she asked.
Philips told the Miami Herald that there were hopes among Pierrilus’ family that he would be sent back to the United States, citing other instances where those unfairly deported were allowed to come back.
Pierrilus’ brother was deported to Haiti because he was in a similar situation but he was sent back by Haitian officials, according to The Washington Post.
But ICE has ramped up deportations of Black immigrants as it seeks continues to defy orders coming from the White House. Another ICE flight to Haiti was organized on Monday that sent 102 people there and Philips noted that there are more than 1,800 Haitians who may be deported in the coming weeks unless Biden’s administration takes direct action.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research told The Haitian Times that 14 deportation flights have already been planned by ICE for the next two weeks.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, ICE has deported more than 200,000 people by citing Title 42, an arcane directive from the CDC that allows the immigration officials to immediately deport anyone who enters the country “illegally.”