Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil had been living in the United States for 23 years as a legal permanent resident when disaster struck. During a routine visit to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2009, he was detained and threatened with deportation due to a 20-year-old drug conviction for which he served 11 years.
Montrevil hadn’t gotten into any further trouble, and in the intervening years he had married a U.S. citizen and had four children. Yet there he sat in a Pennsylvania prison, awaiting deportation. But unlike many immigrants who face the same threat, Montrevil was able to get help from Families for Freedom, a grassroots immigrant advocacy organization in New York.
Support entails a weekly clinic and a national hotline for immigrants or curious citizens. The clinic is a collective space where people learn how to get involved and organize help.
To educate others, FFF provides a ten-week community course called Curriculum Deportation 101, where leaders for people fighting individual cases can come together and collaborate on solutions. The courses, held in New York, are three hours and last for 10 weeks. FFF also holds monthly radio shows that educate immigrants about their rights and the process of deportation.
As for advocacy, FFF works to build leadership for people directly affected. FFF also addresses any local level government issues that arise in relation to immigration laws.
“We cry, we sweat, we do everything to keep our family together, and it’s our job to make life uncomfortable for the people who mess with them,” member Janis Rousheuvel said.
The Funding Exchange has worked with FFF since 2004.
“FEX was one of the funders who really understood the value of the organization, specifically why people directly affected need to be at the forefront of policy making,” Rousheuvel said.
FFF works across issues: immigration rights, criminal justice reform and assisting those directly affected by anti-immigrant laws. Rosheuvel says FEX is one of the few funders that understands the intersection of these issues.
In the case of Jean Montrevil, FFF collected thousands of petition signatures, held protests, made phone calls and helped with his legal defense, obtaining his release two months after he was detained.
He is now safely back at home with his family.