Tuesday, January 16, 2018

After 25 years of living in America our foster son JR will be deported today, Tuesday, January 16th by US immigration. JR was an American in every sense of the word. He has been forthright with immigration all these years and paid his taxes regularly. Against many odds he graduated from an American high school. 
In order to escape the violence and mayhem of his birth country, JR was placed on a flotilla at the age of 9 without his parents. They made a desperate decision ... it would be better for their young child to risk his life to escape the turmoil. He was consequently raised without them. 
After being intercepted by the US Coast Guard, he and his cousins were held in Guantánamo Bay Cuba for nine months. After finally determining that he was, in fact, a parentless child, the United States government flew him into Miami and gave him a Social Security card. A half-sister picked him up at the airport. 
He was eligible under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) passed by Clinton in the ‘90’s. He met every single  criteria. It looked as though America would be the promised land. 
In a way it was. He was able to go to school, learn English, was provided with meals and shelter. He did not daily have to worry about being shot in the streets. As he grew, his half-sister treated him not as a member of the family but rather as a burden and servant to her and her children. After enduring years of abuse, both mental and physical, Junior decided he couldn’t endure it anymore.
So he left his sister’s home. 
This is where we enter the story. As a Young Life leader at Bayshore High School, we came to know the lively kid who loved to show up to every Young Life event. Having had a heart for Haiti already, I was interested in hearing more of his story. We tried to help him in any way that we could. 
One day Junior called me from school explaining that he had been kicked out of the apartment he had been living in with friends. They had literally thrown everything he owned into the lawn and told him to get out. Having nowhere to go, he called me. As I walked around the yard putting everything he owned into three trash bags, the Lord broke my heart and convinced me to allow him to stay with us until we found a place for him to go. Being someone who believed in social programs, I set about to find someone who would be able to help him. As a Senior in high school, attending school regularly, working hard on graduating, he had no car and no way of getting back-and-forth to school. We lived down the street. As we searched for some organization to help him, days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. I had the recurring thought, “Someone must be able to help! There must be someone out there!” 
One day the Lord spoke so clearly to me, “You are someone. You can help.” 
So, just like that Junior came to live with us and our two young daughters. We tutored him, got his schedule changed, and helped him to pass his Florida testing so he would be graduating on time. After another year went by, we eventually bought a home on the other side of town with a small mother-in-law quarters in the back. JR could continue to live with us until he was ready to live on his own. His many years of being raised without parents left him a bit emotionally behind. While he was almost 20 years old he was in many ways still like a young teenager. 
JR was a hard worker and ambitious. Eventually, he started his own business as a DJ, and worked hard at a restaurant and was able to finally move out on his own. 
I suppose this freedom and independence, while it seemed good and necessary to us, brought people into his life that may also have encouraged him towards making some truly bad decisions. Little did he know, and little did we know, these decisions would lead to the situation that he is in right now. 
We were completely unaware and unversed in anything of United States immigration. JR did not know anything about his immigration status when he came to live with us. We discovered it was a lot more complicated than we thought.
Over the years we have gone back-and-forth and round and round with his immigration status. His situation went on and on for 17 years before his legal permanent residency was ultimately denied. 
Since that date he has been in limbo ... not an American citizen, not a Haitian citizen ... just a person with no identification and no home country. 
He has managed to continue to work, continue to pay taxes, and continue to always notify immigration of his whereabouts. In August ICE picked him up at his apartment and has been holding him ever since. 
After many months of trials and consideration it was ruled that he would be deported to Haiti on Tuesday, January 16 by the same plane that flew him into Miami 25 years ago. 
This is a day we couldn’t have imagined when he entered our life as a Young Life kid.
No one would choose for this chapter of JR’s life to end this way.
But this is NOT the end of JR’s story.
I know God has a plan for JR.
I don’t know what His plan looks like.
But I know what the promises of God sound like.
He gives strength to the weary.
He is a refuge for the oppressed.
He is a stronghold in times of trouble.
He is a path straightener.
He is a wisdom granter.
He is peace that transcends understanding.
And best and most of all ....
He is Emmanuel ... 
He is WITH US!
So .... we will keep JR in our prayers.
And I know God will keep JR in His hands.