Jani Montrevil holds a photo of her family, including husband Jean Montrevil, during a demonstration in New York to protest his incarceration and possible
Jani Montrevil holds a photo of her family, including husband Jean Montrevil, during a demonstration in New York to protest his incarceration and possible deportation dec´ades after a drug conviction. Montrevil is being detained in York County Prison. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)
The wife and attorney of a Haitian immigrant detained at York County Prison said he is on a hunger strike with about 60 other detainees, though an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman denies their claims.

Jani Montrevil of Brooklyn, N.Y., said her husband, Jean Montrevil, 41, began the fast Jan. 1, in protest to the "dehumanizing" conditions the detainees are enduring at the prison. The detainees claim they're being fed spoiled food, she said.

Joshua Bardavid, Jean Montrevil's attorney, said that during their last conversation on Monday, Jan. 4, Jean Montrevil mentioned that he and about 60 other detainees were doing a hunger strike.

"(Montrevil) said the food is quite inedible and there's not enough food," Bardavid said. "We didn't have much time to talk, so we didn't spend much time talking about it."

However, Mike Gilhooly, ICE's spokesman, said there is "absolutely no truth" to the hunger strike claims.

"There are no ICE detainees at York
involved in any hunger strike at this time," he said.

Gilhooly said Jean Montrevil is "an aggravated felon with a significant criminal record who has a final order of removal from an immigration judge. Montrevil has exhausted all of his appeals, and ICE will enforce the immigration judge's order. One of ICE's primary missions is to remove foreign national criminals from the United States."

He would not comment further on Jean Montrevil's case.

Life after prison: Bardavid said that while Jean Montrevil, 41, did serve more than a decade in prison on drug charges, the immigrant -- who came to the U.S. in 1986 as a legal permanent resident -- is now an immigrants' rights activist and father of four U.S.-born children.

Jean Montrevil is a member of Families for Freedom and co-founder of New Sanctuary Movement, a faith-based coalition for immigration reform.

He also is a business owner who pays taxes, Bardavid said. Jani Montrevil said she is a laid-off teacher, and her husband is the sole breadwinner for the family as owner of J & J First Class Van Service.

He also is a volunteer at Judson Memorial Church, where they are members, she said.

Fellow congregants were part of a Tuesday protest in New York against ICE's decision to detain Jean Montrevil, his attorney said. Ten people were arrested.

Jean Montrevil was at an immigration office in New York when ICE officials detained him on Dec. 30, Bardavid said.

He said Jean Montrevil has been going to the immigration office since 2000 to report on his whereabouts, address and work history in accordance to supervised release orders he received from immigration officials after he was released from prison.

1989 arrest, 1996 law: Jean Montrevil was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1989 for possession of cocaine and attempted distribution of cocaine. He initially was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which was cut to 11 years because of good behavior, Bardavid said.

In 1996, an immigration law was enacted calling for automatic deportation of immigrants convicted of crime, with deportation to occur after prison sentences were completed, he said.

ICE applied the law to Jean Montrevil's 1989 case and attempted to deport him after his release from prison in 2000. However, Haiti was not accepting deportees because the county was politically unstable, Bardavid said.

Jean Montrevil was then placed in ICE's supervised release program. In late 2005, ICE detained him for six months and again was unsuccessful in getting Haiti to accept him, according to Bardavid. He was released from detention in 2006.

The attorney said he plans to challenge ICE files that indicate Jean Montrevil committed crimes in 1997 and 2000. His client was still in jail on the dates listed for the crimes, Bardavid said.

Jean Montrevil faced assault charges in 1989 for getting into a fight when he initially entered prison. But there have been no other criminal charges since then, Bardavid said.

Ask for 'deferred action': Bardavid said he filed a legal request with an immigration judge asking for a deferred action to be applied to Jean Montrevil's case, meaning he would be released from the "removal is imminent" status that has allowed ICE to repeatedly detain him six months at a time.

If the deferred action request is granted, ICE would have to present a deportation time frame based on Haiti's ability to accept deportees, rather than randomly detaining Jean Montrevil without documented proof that the country would take him.

Immigration officials also could decide to indefinitely hold off deportation proceedings against Jean Montrevil by determining that his presence in the U.S. would be in the best interest of his family, community and society, Bardavid said.

"We're asking them to take into account that he has not committed a crime in 20 years, his involvement in community activities and work in owning a business and paying taxes," Bardavid said. "He is truly a benefit to the community and he should be allowed to remain where he has proved himself."

--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438 or emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.