Three Years After Unjust Deportation, As Violence Explodes in Haiti, Human Rights Groups Urge Governor Kathy Hochul to Pardon Longtime New York Resident

Yesterday, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance filed a gubernatorial pardon application on behalf of Paul Pierrilus, a financial consultant from New York. The organizations are asking Governor Kathy Hochul to facilitate Pierrilus’ immediate return to New York following his sudden deportation to Haiti in 2021 – a country he had never stepped foot in.

Three years after his deportation, Pierrilus continues to live in hiding amid Haiti’s political and humanitarian crises, including the recent escalation of deadly gang violence that has led Haiti to collapse into “a state of anarchy.” As the U.S. government airlifts all remaining American citizens from the Haitian capital, Pierrilus, who lacks Haitian citizenship, any family or community connections, or even the ability to speak Haitian Kreyol, remains left behind.

“It is hard to describe in words what it is like for me in Haiti. I am not living but simply existing,” said Pierrilus. “These last few weeks have been days of terror as the security crisis has intensified. I don’t hear roosters in the morning. Instead, I hear bullets ringing off as an alarm clock. It feels like the end of days here. I have no family, no friends, and I am unable to work. My daily existence is one of remaining hidden, terrified, and just hopeful that each day will not be the last day. This experience is truly a dark night of the soul. The only thing that keeps me going is my faith and the hope that I may one day be reunited with my family and my home in New York, the only home I have ever known.”

A 35-year resident of Spring Valley, NY, Pierrilus came to the United States from Saint Martin as a young boy. Growing up surrounded by family and immersed in the community, he did not realize he lacked legal status until he applied to college and discovered he was ineligible for financial aid. Driven by financial desperation, he made a mistake he would regret for the rest of his life, resulting in a 2003 drug-related arrest and conviction.

After completing his six month sentence, Pierrilus was released. For the next 14 years, he complied with every term of his release, beginning a long career as a financial consultant to help families plan for their futures. Pierrilus also cultivated deep ties to his church community, where he volunteered on the weekends and served as a mentor to young men.

In January 2021, during the last days of the Trump administration, Pierrilus went to a regularly scheduled ICE check-in. He was taken into custody without notice or warning, detained, and disappeared to Winn Correctional Center, a notoriously abusive ICE jail in rural Louisiana. There, he was subjected to abuse and neglect as ICE worked at breakneck speed to deport him. After two failed attempts, ICE used violent force to deport Paul to Haiti on February 2, 2021.

“Paul’s unconscionable removal to Haiti reflects a larger, sinister pattern of targeted deportations of Black immigrants, separated from their families in the final days of the Trump administration,” said Sarah Decker, staff attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Paul has shown significant remorse and rehabilitation following his one, 20-year-old criminal conviction. His resulting banishment from the U.S. further exemplifies the “double punishment” Black immigrants too often endure.”

“Paul’s wrongful deportation is emblematic of the targeted violence against Black people in the U.S., including in our immigration systems,” said Guerline Jozef, Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “The U.S. mistreated and deported Paul to Haiti despite public protest from the Haitian government and his Congress member. Paul has been in hiding since he landed in Haiti, it’s time to bring him home to rejoin his family and community in New York.”

“For the last three years, Paul has been living in isolation and anguish,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This pardon would be a meaningful step towards healing and justice, allowing Paul to secure legal status in the United States and reunite with his family, friends, and longtime community in New York. We ask Governor Hochul to open the door for his safe return home.”

Pierrilus’ pardon application is currently pending before Governor Kathy Hochul’s office.

Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), also known as “the Bridge”, is a grassroots community organization that advocates for fair and humane immigration policies and provides migrants and immigrants with humanitarian, legal, and social services, with a particular focus on Black migrants, the Haitian community, women and girls, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and survivors of torture and other human rights abuses. HBA also seeks to elevate the issues unique to Black migrants and builds solidarity and collective movement toward policy change. Anpil men, chay pa lou (“Many hands make the load light”). Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @haitianbridge

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues— championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter: @RFKHumanRights.