Federal immigration officials plan to deport a Waterville man over a nearly 10-year-old drug conviction.
On Jan. 2, agents detained Lexius Saint Martin, a 35-year-old Haitian who came to U.S. as a refugee in 1994, but have not explained to him or his family why they are arresting him now, or when he will be forced to leave the country, according to his attorney, Evan Fisher.
The arrest was a blow to the family of Saint Martin, who has lived in Maine for 7 years under conditions that have allowed him to avoid deportation.
Saint Martin’s wife said she doesn’t understand why he might be sent back to a country where he doesn’t hold a passport and has no adult memories.
“He’s the one that goes and works every day while I stay home and take care of our kids,” said Mindy Saint Martin, who is expecting the couple’s third child in May. “For him to be deported over something that happened 10 years ago … It’s just out of nowhere.”
Lexius Saint Martin was convicted in 2008 of felony drug trafficking after police found cocaine and more than $4,800 in his car. The exact amount of cocaine was not available in public documents, but he pleaded guilty to a single count of Class B trafficking. The state dismissed a more severe Class A charge of trafficking 112 grams or more of powder cocaine or 32 grams or more of base cocaine, according to the indictment. He served a 7-month sentence, and lost his status a refugee. Federal agents arrested him for deportation shortly after he was released from county jail, Fisher said.
But when a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the federal government halted deportations to that island nation. Instead, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement allowed Lexius Saint Martin to stay in Maine under conditions designed to monitor and restrict his presence to the Northeast as long as he regularly checked in with ICE officials, according to documents.
He has abided by those conditions, said Fisher, who added that technically, the deportation order was still in effect.
ICE did not explain what sparked its renewed interest in deporting him. In a letter, officials said that Saint Martin’s case had “been reviewed” and he would “be afforded an informal interview at which you will be given an opportunity to respond to the reasons for the revocation.”
An ICE spokesman declined to answer specific questions about the case, referring back to Saint Martin’s 2008 drug conviction.
No interview has been scheduled, Fisher said, who claims the government is violating Saint Martin’s constitutional due process rights by forcing him to sit in New Hampshire’s Strafford County Jail for an unknown amount of time.
Gov. Paul LePage told the Morning Sentinel he would consider pardoning Saint Martin, but he said that he didn’t have the power to stop his deportation.
“He has been on notice for a decade that he’s going to be deported and he’s done absolutely nothing to change his status,” LePage said Tuesday on Maine Public. “There’s nothing I can do. It’s in the hands of the courts.”
Saint Martin’s arrest came less than two months after the government said it would rescind Temporary Protective Status for the country, which allowed an estimated 60,000 Haitians to find refuge in the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake. Saint Martin is not protected by that measure.
Susan Roche, executive director of Portland’s Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, said the Saint Martin family situation highlights a portion of U.S. immigration law that “puts people in a precarious situation” by preventing immigrants with past convictions to get a second chance.
BDN writer Jake Bleiberg contributed to this report.
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Correction: A previous version of this article misstated some details of Saint Martin's conviction. He pleaded guilty to one count of Class B trafficking. Also, an earlier version of this article misstated some details of Saint Martin's conviction. He pleaded guilty to one count of Class B trafficking.