July 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Haiti: COS - Dominican Republic: Politics: Congress: The New London Day: Haitian Family Thanks Senator Chris Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominican Republic: RPCV Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic) : RPCV Chris Dodd: Archived Stories: July 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Haiti: COS - Dominican Republic: Politics: Congress: The New London Day: Haitian Family Thanks Senator Chris Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

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Haitian Family Thanks Senator Chris Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

Haitian Family Thanks Senator Chris Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

Haitian Family Thanks Senator Chris Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

Family Thanks Dodd For Role In Forestalling Deportation

Day Arts Writer, Westerly, North Stonington
Published on 7/19/2004

Caption: Senator Christopher Dodd jokes about the volume of food set out for him as Majan Jean, left, and her friends and family thank him for sparing Jean from deportation. Also pictured is Daline Jean-Pierre, center, Kelly Shannon, 2nd from right, and Jean's mom Viene, right. Photo: Jashong King

Norwich — Fearing deportation, Majan Jean wrote to President Bush in May, telling him: “All I need is a helping hand and then I'll find my way.”

Though she has yet to hear from the president, Jean has gotten help from more public officials and others than she ever could have imagined, including U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., who visited Jean on Sunday, the day she once believed would be her last in the United States.

Dodd helped arrange to defer Jean's deportation, and will introduce a private bill in the Senate that would enable her to permanently remain in this country.

For his efforts, Jean said she had something special for the senator: “You get two hugs,” she told Dodd shortly after he walked in the door of the Sandy Lane apartment she shares with her mother.

Dodd and his staff also were treated to a feast of Haitian platters prepared by Jean's mother, Vivianne Juste, friends and relatives. The spread included a mousse of beets and potatoes, green salads, a braid of meats and pastry, sweet plantains, black rice, fried pork and freshly squeezed lemon and limeade.

Over the meal, served in the kitchen, which was packed with reporters and cameramen, Jean finally was able to express her gratitude in person. Dodd, in turn, was able to tell her why he was willing to take the rare step of introducing a private bill on her behalf.

“I didn't want you to slip through the cracks,” Dodd said. “Our country is a stronger, better place because we are a country of immigrants. I have a feeling you are going to be a great American.”

The whirlwind that brought Dodd to Sandy Lane began June 28, when Jean was notified that she would have to leave the country by July 18. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jean, now 19, was brought to America as a 12-year-old and has been in Norwich for four years. She graduated from Norwich Free Academy and is studying to be a psychologist at Three Rivers Community College.

Last fall, Juste sought political asylum here, but was turned down by immigration authorities in Hartford. Jean and her mother were then incarcerated as undocumented immigrants. Jean was freed on $1,000 bail a day later, but her mother remained in prison for a month, until the pastor at their church, the Family Church of God in New London, put a lien on his home to secure her release. She has not received a deportation notice.

Through the efforts of Josh Bernstein of the National Immigration Law Center in Washington, D.C., Jean's former teachers and Kelly Shannon of the Hartford office of Democracy Works, Jean's plight received public notice and prompted offers of help from a range of advocates.

Interest began at the state level with state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and reached Congress, where Dodd and six other senators, including Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signed a letter Thursday asking Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to defer Jean's deportation.

“I had been screaming, crying alone,” Jean said. “Then I had many voices, all getting stronger.”

On Friday, Ridge granted a 60-day stay of Jean's deportation. During that period, Dodd will introduce in the Senate a private bill to prevent her deportation. U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, has vowed to work for its passage. Jean's expulsion also would be prevented by passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, which would allow 65,000 children of undocumented immigrants who have been educated and are living in this country to remain here.

Dodd said Sunday that Jean surely would qualify for the act's protection because she embodies the type of young person the legislation is designed to benefit.

Jean appeared Friday in Nashville, Tenn., where she spoke on behalf of the act before the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who could help pass the legislation, was expected to attend, but Jean said he did not. Jean also said many illegal aliens who were expected to participate avoided the event because of a rumor that immigration authorities would police it.

Jean was notified of Dodd's plans to visit Sunday while in her hotel room in Nashville watching local coverage of her speech. She returned to Norwich late Saturday afternoon.

 Chris Dodd

Dodd said he has traced his roots to immigrants who came to America in the 1840s and are buried near Sandy Lane in the Greeneville section of Norwich. He once served as a Peace Corps volunteer on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and said he closely monitors events in Haiti, where he said living conditions are “terrible.”

Jean said she persevered in her efforts to stay in America because of the thought of those conditions and because of her friends and fond memories in the United States.

“If you were from (Haiti), and you knew how bad it was there, you couldn't even let yourself imagine going back there,” she said. “I put myself into denial, I put all those thoughts into the back of my mind and made myself stay positive. I want to stay here and live my life in America.”

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Story Source: The New London Day

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; COS - Dominican Republic; Politics; Congress



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