Dozens of people came together Saturday in support of a Haitian man from Waterville who was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last month. Simultaneously, the supporters got out their phones and left messages for members of Maine's congressional delegation, asking for their help.
Lexius Saint Martin is currently being detained in a New Hampshire jail awaiting deportation. As a child, he came to the United States as a legal refugee, according to his attorney, Evan Fisher. He received lawful permanent resident status in 1996. But nine years ago he was convicted of a drug trafficking offense, for which he served seven months in jail. Fisher said that he's had a spotless record since then, and has been the model of rehabilitation. He's now at risk of being permanently separated from his pregnant wife and two young sons, who are all U.S. citizens living in central Maine. A homeowner and business owner, Saint Martin is his family's sole financial provider.
“That's why we're asking you to call these politicians,” Fisher said. “Because they represent us and they should represent him. So if you know these people, and they say they care about families, tell them to care about this family. If they care about taxpayers, care about this taxpayer. If they want to give relief to homeowners, give relief to this homeowner. If they care about the unborn, then they should care about his unborn daughter. This family deserves their father back.”
Democratic State Sen. Shenna Bellows of Manchester, who formerly served as the executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said members of Maine's congressional delegation have the power to bring a private bill to stop Saint Martin's deportation. She urged those gathered in solidarity with the Saint Martin family not to give up.
“This is personal,” Bellows said through tears. “This is about their unborn daughter, their two young sons. It's about a large family. It's about all of us. It's not just about Lexius or his redemption. It's about our redemption.”
Many of those in attendance say they are outraged at the thought of breaking up a family.
“It helps nobody, and it victimizes the family and the kids, and it's just horrific,” said Andi Parkinson of Monmouth.
"It's disgusting to split families apart in this way,” said Carol Lipshultz, a Colby College student who showed up to express her opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies. “No matter your immigration status you should be treated as a human being,” Lipshultz said.
John Reynolds, Saint Martin's brother-in-law from Oakland, described Saint Martin as a hard worker and loving father “who would do anything for us.”
“My family should not be going through this horrible situation,” Reynolds said. “Thank you for coming out and supporting the movement, not just for my family but for thousands of families across America.”
It's unclear when Saint Martin might be deported.
Calls and emails to Immigration and Customs Enforcement have not been returned to Maine Public Radio.