Volume 79, Number 32 | January 13 - 19, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photos by J.B. Nicholas

Protesters blocking Houston St. outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center on Jan. 7.

Clergy members get collared calling for release of activist

Reverend Donna Schaper, of Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square, addressed the crowd on Jan. 5. She later did civil disobedience and was arrested. At right, state Senator Tom Duane lent his support to the protest action.

By Albert Amateau

Singing hymns and carrying ban-
ners demanding immigration law reform, 19 men and women blocked traffic and were arrested last week in protests against what the Reverend Donna Schaper, pastor of Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, called “laws that destroy families.”

At two demonstrations, one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday, clergy and lay activists rallied in front of the federal building on Varick and Houston Sts. where the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is located.

The focus of their protest was Jean Montrevil, 41, who came to New York from Haiti at the age of 17 and obtained a green card, but now faces immediate deportation — although his wife and four children are citizens because they were born here.

For the past three years, Montrevil has been involved in the New Sanctuary Movement at Judson, where one of his daughters, Janiah, goes to Sunday school. On Dec. 30, Immigration officials arrested Montrevil and took him to a detention center in York, Pa., where he is subject to immediate deportation. His expulsion from the U.S. was ordered because he was convicted and sentenced to prison for selling cocaine when he was 20 years old. Under current law, judges are not permitted discretion to consider a person’s family in appeals from deportation orders.

At the rally on Tues., Jan. 5, Schaper was one of 10 people who stood in a line across Houston St. on the west side of Varick, locked arms and sang hymns until they were arrested, handcuffed and taken in a van to the First Precinct, where they were held for an hour and given summonses to appear in court on March 8 on charges of disorderly conduct.

At the Thurs., Jan. 7, rally, nine people, including several Judson members and Angela Fernandez, executive director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, blocked traffic on Houston St. until they too were handcuffed and taken to the First Precinct and given disorderly conduct summonses for a March 9 court appearance.

On Fri., Jan. 8, Schaper and other activists went to Washington, D.C., to lobby elected officials and ICE, a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security, to get Montrevil’s deportation deferred and grant him supervised release.

Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, whose district includes the Montrevil family’s home in Brooklyn, have written letters on Montrevil’s behalf to ICE. Nadler and Congressmember Jose Serrano of the Bronx are co-sponsors of federal legislation that would allow judges to consider family welfare in deportation proceedings.

Clergy being arrested Jan. 7 after blocking Houston St.

“We are putting our bodies on the line,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, deputy director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, who was among the 10 people arrested on Jan. 7. “Our demand is simple and reasonable. We ask Janet Napolitano [Homeland Security secretary] to include the principle of judicial discretion and due process in the spirit of immigration reform.

“Right now, we have a system so anti-family that a judge cannot consider Jean’s American-born children or his redemption from a crime committed 20 years ago,” said Ruiz, whose organization is affiliated with Catholic Charities.

City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito told the Jan. 7 rally that 30,000 legal immigrants across the country are being held awaiting deportation, putting their American-born children at risk.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Tom Duane sent messages of support to the rallies.

Montrevil’s wife, Jani, told the rally, “This makes no sense. The government doesn’t want me on public assistance, but how can they take away our family’s breadwinner? How can they judge him for something he has already been punished for?”

Police assigned to the two rallies did not make any arrests until protesters blocked auto traffic on Houston St.

“They [police] were very polite — and some were even sympathetic,” said Lenny Fox, a Judson member for many years who was one of the 10 protesters arrested on Jan. 5. “I told one of the cops about Jean’s situation and he said he felt sorry for the guy. I wished they’d arrested us sooner — it was really cold until they put us in the paddy wagon and took us Downtown,” Fox said.

About 65 people attended the Jan. 5 rally and 50 were at the Jan. 7 protest.

“The officers were very nice and polite,” said Clover Vail, a Chelsea resident and longtime Judson member arrested on Jan. 7. Vail said she has known Montrevil and his family since they joined Judson’s sanctuary movement three years ago. “He and his kids are lovely and his arrest was so unfair,” she said. Vail said that immigration deportation enforcement became especially oppressive after Sept. 2001.

In addition to Schaper, Fox and Cruz, others arrested on Jan. 5 were Lulu Fogarty, teacher at Judson Sunday School, which the Montrevil children attend; Reverend Michael Caine, former head of the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ and current pastor of Old First Reform Church in Philadelphia; Reverend Mark Marsh, pastor of Victoria Congregational Church in Queens; Susan Julia, ordination candidate at Judson; Paul Thorson, Union Theological seminarian; and Michele Fei, lawyer with the Immigrant Defense Project in Manhattan.

In addition to Vail and Fernandez, others arrested on Jan. 7 were Reverend Susan Switzer of Union Theological Seminary and member of Riverside Church; Reverend Eleanor Harrison, a nursing home chaplain and Judson member; Reverend Sherrilyn J. Posey, Judson Church member; Aarti Shahani, Harvard graduate student and co-founder of Families for Freedom; Christina (C.B.) Stewart, community minister at Lemuel Haynes United Church of Christ and Judson; Catherine Stetts, Judson member; and Craig Kuehl, also a member of Judson.

A photo of immigration activist Jean Montrevil and his family.

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