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19-year-old Haitian man faces deportation, attorneys blame slow U.S. government bureaucracy

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman
/
Michigan Radio
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids

A 19-year old Haitian man who came to the U.S. seeking asylum could be deported soon. The U.S. government being slow to act could be part of the reason.

Williams Sejour came to the U.S. when he was 16. He was looking to escape his abusive family. Sejour turned himself into authorities at the U.S. southern border, making him a so-called “arriving alien” rather than an illegal alien.

Since he was alone, his attorneys say Sejour was placed into foster care by the federal government and ended up with Bethany Christian Services' Long Term Foster Care program in the Grand Rapids area.

Sejour was arrested for armed robbery in Grand Rapids last summer, but despite all of the charges being dropped, he’s facing deportation.

Sejour and his attorneys went to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status as minor almost a year before he was arrested. But the USCIS has not issued any decision by the time Sejour turned 18.  

Ana Devereaux, Supervising Attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, says Sejour should have been granted permanent residency long before his arrest.

“Every avenue to seek legal status that’s been available to him, he has sought,” Devereaux said.

Devereaux says her office has asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to give Sejour a stay of removal, but there’s one issue.

“He currently doesn’t have travel documents, and so they wouldn’t let us put in an application without him having travel documents. So we are waiting on that,” she said.

Devereaux says she will apply for another stay of removal once his travel documents are secured.

Representatives from ICE did not respond to a request for comment.

Devereaux says Sejour does not legally need to be detained, but he has been in detention for over nine months.

“There are cases where someone needs to legally be detained, given certain charges or offenses that person might have, but Williams is not one of them,” she said.

Devereaux says Sejour was finishing high school and pursuing a career in either law enforcement or the armed forces before his arrest.

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