Paul Pierrilus, who was expelled from the United States two years ago, has been attempting to make a living in a chaotic and dangerous nation where he was not born and had never resided.
While both of his parents are from Haiti, they immigrated to St. Martin in the French Caribbean, where Pierrilus was born. When he was five years old, the family emigrated to the United States without applying for citizenship in Haiti or St. Martin. He was raised in New York and speaks English.
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Deported following a protracted process due to a narcotics conviction from two decades ago, Pierrilus is now in Haiti where he is unable to speak Haitian Creole, cannot find employment, and has little funds as he searches for a way out of the country’s growing instability.
Pierrilus added, “You have to be mentally strong to deal with this type of stuff.” He further noted, “A country where people get kidnapped every day. A country where people are killed. You have to be strong.”
In a neighborhood where gunshots frequently reverberate outside, the 42-year-old financial consultant spends the majority of his days confined inside a house reading self-help, business, and marketing books.
The Biden administration is stepping up deportations to Haiti despite requests from campaigners that they are temporarily suspended due to the Caribbean nation’s escalating crisis. Pierrilus’ American attorneys are currently contesting his deportation order, keeping him in limbo in terms of his legal situation.
His situation has come to represent what some campaigners see as the prejudice Haitian migrants experience within the overcrowded U.S. immigration system. As many more continue to leave Haiti in perilous boat crossings that occasionally result in mass drownings, more than 20,000 Haitians had been deported from the U.S. in the previous year.
People being deported to a place they have never lived in is exceptional, although it does happen periodically, like in Pierrilus’ case.
Jimmy Aldaoud, whose family immigrated to the United States in 1979 and who was born to Iraqi parents in a Greek refugee camp, was deported to Iraq in 2019 after accruing a number of criminal offenses. He passed away a few months later in Iraq due to health issues and the fact that he didn’t speak the language, an instance that proponents frequently mention.
In order for them to live better lives and for him to have a better education, Pierrilus’ parents brought him to the United States.
He was found guilty of trafficking crack cocaine while he was only starting out in his 20s. Pierrilus was moved from criminal to immigration detention since he was not a citizen of the United States. Due of his paternity, he was declared to be a Haitian national and was ordered deported to Haiti.
Pierrilus was able to postpone deportation by raising many legal objections. He was allowed to be freed, given a work license, and instructed to check in with immigration officials annually since he was not regarded to be a flight risk or a danger to the community.
He afterward went on to work as a financial advisor.
His attorneys are unsure of why he was deported in February 2021 without prior notice.
His appeal has been taken up by lawyers for the Washington-based charity Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group. “We demand that the Biden administration bring Paul home,” said Sarah Decker, the group’s attorney.
His family did not apply for French citizenship since French St. Martin does not automatically grant it to anyone born on its soil to foreign parents. Moreover, they did not properly apply for Pierrilus’ citizenship of Haiti, which is his right.
While he may become a citizen of Haiti, according to his attorneys, he is not now a citizen of that country, has never lived there, and shouldn’t be sent to a place with such political unrest.
According to a brief general statement sent to The Associated Press by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, every government is required by international law to accept the return of its citizens who are not permitted to stay in the U.S. or any other country. No other information on Pierrilus’ case, including what evidence the U.S. government has that he is an alleged citizen of Haiti and why 13 years had elapsed before he was abruptly deported, could be released, according to an ICE spokesman.
According to the Board of Immigration Appeals, “it is not necessary for the respondent to be a citizen of Haiti for that country to be named as the country of removal.” Pierrilus’ prior attorneys’ plea to stop his deportation was rejected in 2005. His current lawyer, Decker, disagrees with that conclusion.
According to Pierrilus, he informed immigration agents, “I’m not going anywhere,” as he was being deported. “I’m not from where you’re trying to send me.”
He said he ceased struggling after being overpowered and restrained. He remembered hearing ladies screaming and kids crying as they boarded the plane. He had the same feeling within. Pierrilus had no idea whether or when he would see his loved ones or friends again.
Someone loaned Pierrilus a mobile phone so he could call his parents after being processed at the airport. They provided him with the details of a family friend who would let him stay with them temporarily. He has had to pass through two more residences as a result of gang violence since that time.
With the killing of President Jovenel Mose in 2021, feuding gangs have increased their control of territory in the Haitian capital to an estimated 60%, pillaging communities and raping and slaughtering innocent people.
The United Nations issued a warning in January stating that the humanitarian situation in Haiti is at its worst in decades. In 2017, there were recorded 1,350 or more kidnappings, more than twice as many as in 2016. More than 2,100 murders were reported, a 35% increase.
Pierrilus claims to have witnessed a guy being shot in the face while driving through his neighborhood, as bullets broke the windows and left pock marks on the man’s vehicle.
He noted, “Can you imagine that? This guy is swirling around trying to flee the area. I don’t know what happened to the guy.”
He thus seldom ventures outside and bases his sense of optimism on his beliefs. After seeing a live-streamed service in April 2021 in which gangs broke into the church and abducted a pastor and three worshippers, he claims he stopped attending services.
At least once a week, Pierrilus speaks with his parents, concentrating on the developments in his situation rather than the difficulties in Haiti.
When he initially arrived in Haiti two years ago, he was hesitant to talk about his initial thoughts about the country. “I had mixed feelings,” he confessed. “I wanted to see what it looked like on my time, not under these circumstances.”