Daily Camera (Boulder)
Lawyers fight for man they say U.S. wrongly deported
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO >>
Paul Pierrilus was deported two years ago from the U.S. to Haiti where he has been trying to survive in a chaotic and violent country where he wasn’t born and had never lived.
Both his parents are Haitian but they emigrated to the French Caribbean territory of St. Martin where Pierrilus was born. The family did not apply for citizenship for him in either Haiti or St. Martin and later moved to the U.S. when he was 5. He grew up in New York speaking English.
Deported — after a long delay — because of a drug conviction two decades ago, Pierrilus is now in Haiti where he does not speak Haitian Creole, has been unable to find work and has little savings left as he hopes for a way to leave the increasingly unstable country.
“You have to be mentally strong to deal with this type of stuff,” Pierrilus said. “A country where people get kidnapped every day. A country where people are killed. You have to be strong.”
The 42-year-old financial consultant spends most of his days locked inside a house reading self-help, business and marketing books in a neighborhood where gunshots often echo outside.
Lawyers for Pierrilus in the U.S. are still fighting his deportation order, leaving him in legal limbo as the Biden administration steps up deportations to Haiti despite pleas from activists that they be temporarily halted because of the Caribbean country’s deepening chaos.
His case has become emblematic of what some activists describe as the discrimination Haitian migrants face in the overburdened U.S. immigration system. More than 20,000 Haitians have been deported from the U.S. in the past year as thousands more continue to flee Haiti in risky boat crossings that sometimes end in mass drownings.
Cases like Pierrilus’ in which people are deported to a country where they have never lived are unusual, but they happen occasionally.
Jimmy Aldaoud, born of Iraqi parents at a refugee camp in Greece and whose family emigrated to the U.S. in 1979, was deported in 2019 to Iraq after amassing several felony convictions. Suffering health problems and not knowing the language in Iraq, he died a few months later in a case oft-cited by advocates.
Pierrilus’ parents took him to the United States so they could live a better life and he could receive a higher quality education.
When he was in his early 20s, he was convicted of selling crack cocaine. Because he was not a U.S. citizen, Pierrilus was transferred from criminal custody to immigration custody where he was deemed a Haitian national because of his parentage and ordered deported to Haiti.
Pierrilus managed to delay deportation with several legal challenges. Because he was deemed neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk, he was released, issued a work authorization and ordered to check with immigration authorities yearly.
He went on to become a financial planner.
Then, in February 2021, he was deported without warning, and his lawyers don’t know exactly why his