No Voice in America: When My Family Was Torn Apart by Deportation

By Jamya Montrevil, age 11


Jamya’s father, Jean Montrevil, an immigration rights activist, was deported to Haiti in January 2018. Democracy Now!


I began to pet the black leather seats with perky cheeks and big eyes, thinking about how I got to skip school on this windy Thursday morning. As my mom began to speed up I could hear the tires screeching. I wanted to tell her to slow down because my life was in her hands, but I thought that would make her even more upset than she already was. When we hit a red light, she looked at me. I pretended I could not see her, but when I looked up at her it was like I could see a dark soul. I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but I did not want to be nosy.

And suddenly a breeze came with the scent of apple cinnamon and orange. Wait! Orange peels! My dad loves to give me oranges. I had not talked to my dad in a long time. I reached for my mom’s phone and she yelled, “Sit back!” right in my face. So I turned to my sister and asked to use her phone. When the words left my mouth, my sister whispered to my mom, “You have to tell her.” “Tell me what?” I asked, and my mom began to tell me. “Princess, it’s about your dad.” As soon as she said “princess,” I knew something was wrong because that word doesn’t come around often.

My mom continued, “ICE was watching your dad for a couple of weeks, and when he was getting in his work van to go to work, they locked him up. The ICE officers didn’t pat him down correctly. He still had his cell phone in his pocket. He was terrified, he spelled ‘immigration’ with three g’s when he texted me.”

I began to cry. My mom and sister began to quickly pass me tissues. All I could do was pray that we would have a repeat of 2010 and a hurricane or something would happen, causing them to have to send him back, and he wouldn’t have to board the plane and go back to Haiti, a country he hasn’t been to in over 30 years.

This all is happening because of messed-up government paperwork—and who they let in the White House. My dad’s old friend told the judge he had nothing to with the drugs, but it didn’t matter because immigrants have no voice in America. Two weeks after they arrested my dad, it was official. He was put on a plane at 6 a.m. on January 16, 2018, the same day of his 10 a.m. court hearing.

They kept my dad in a tiny jail in Haiti where deportees are kept, until someone pays to get out or until someone comes to claim you like you’re a piece of luggage. My father has no real family in Haiti, a very poor country which has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake. The same good friend who gave up 30 years ago and was deported back to Haiti when he was arrested in the 1980s with my dad for a drug offense was kind enough to pick my dad up from jail and allow him to live in his basement.

Little did I know we were on our way to the Jericho Walk, which is a walk that is done by immigrant supporters and religious leaders. It usually takes place around a building such as 26 Federal Plaza, where immigrants are detained and deported daily. We walk around the building silently and pray as a group. All I could think about was how I would no longer be able to spend Fridays with dad, who would leave work early to pick me and my brother up from school. He would take us to fun places like the Atlantic Mall, where we would go get pizza and play games at Chuck E. Cheese’s. We would go to Brooklyn Bridge Park and get ice cream. I knew that I had my passport and I would eventually get to see my dad again. I will continue to be an activist and know that everyone is different and that not everyone cares as much as I do about other people and if their families get split up due to broken immigration laws.

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