A Haitian man and his family wait to see if he is deported and if their family is torn apart
Jonathan Freed hasn’t eaten since New Year’s Eve. The South Florida immigrants’ rights activist is one of six people who say they will not eat until President Obama puts a stop to deportations that separate immigrants from their American families. (Download the letter to the president.)
After a few days he stopped being hungry or thinking of food, he said. Instead he is consistently queasy, and his head is a little foggy.
The hunger strikers are part of a increasingly impatient immigrant movement that wants to see a moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted by Congress.
So Freed and his companions are camping on the grounds of St. Ann’s Mission in Naranja, Florida. Naranja is a community filled with Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian immigrants, too many of whom, Freed said, are at risk of deportation either because they are in the country illegally or because they’ve committed crimes ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deems worthy of exile.
“In our community the amount of enforcement is ripping families apart,” he said Wednesday. Freed, who is executive director of We Count!, a immigrant rights organization, acknowledges that the hunger strike is a dramatic step — and one that could fail. But more traditional forms of protest haven’t worked, he said.
“People have marched, written letters, held rallies and vigils. We’ve done all that. The situation has become so critical we felt we had to do something dramatic,” said Freed.
So for thirteen days now Freed and five others — among them undocumented immigrants with American children — have slept in a tent on the church grounds and spent their days explaining their action to visitors, keeping each other company and praying.
“It’s a political action, but it’s also a spiritual action that you try to get God to intercede and change the hearts of those in government,” Freed said.
A senseless policy — a family suffers
That is exactly what Jean Montrevil is praying for as well. The 41-year-old Haitian immigrant, Brooklyn, New York resident and father of four is in a jail in York County, Pennsylvania, awaiting deportation to the country he left when he was 16. Tuesday’s devastating earthquake offered an odd sort of reprieve, temporarily suspending deportations to Haiti, but Montrevil is still in detention, three hours away from his family and could be deported as soon as ICE deems conditions in Haiti stable.