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Legal Victory for BC's Post-Deportation Project: Haitian Deportee Allowed to Rejoin U.S. Family

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (January 2011) - After being separated from his wife and two young sons - all U.S. citizens - for two and a half years, a client of the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project at Boston College is able to rejoin his family in Massachusetts.

Dan Kanstroom
Dan Kanstroom

Calling the result "a great, humanitarian decision that is the fruit of much excellent hard work" by the team, Law Professor Daniel Kanstroom, the project's director, deems the effort "an example of the type of compelling case for which the PDHRP was designed.  We hope that it can serve as a model for other lawyers and law school clinics.”

Mr. L (not his real name) fled Haiti in 2002, after being the target of threats and harassment, and applied for asylum in the United States.  While his application was pending, he met his wife and became the primary caretaker of the couple’s special needs son. His asylum application ultimately was denied, however, and Mr. L was detained, then deported to Haiti in May 2008, leaving behind his son and his wife, who at the time was expecting the couple’s second child.

Although U.S. citizens can generally petition for their spouses, individuals who have been deported or who have spent periods of time in the U.S. “unlawfully” are barred from re-entering the country, said Kanstroom.  In such instances, special waivers must be granted to allow the individual to obtain an immigrant visa and to return to their families.

With the assistance of the PDHRP, Mr. L submitted applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services documenting the extreme emotional and financial hardship his wife and children were experiencing as a result of the separation, and requesting that he be granted a waiver.

After waiting five months for a decision on the waiver applications, and more than two and a half years after his deportation, Mr. L was informed late in 2010 that the waivers were approved, and that he would be issued a visa to return to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, reunited with his family.  

This case is an example of the many activities of the PDHRP, based at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College, to conceptualize a new area of law. The project team provides direct representation to individuals who have been deported and promotes the rights of deportees and their family members through research, legal and policy analysis, media advocacy, training programs, and participatory action research.

"Our ultimate goal," said Kanstroom, "is to introduce legal predictability, proportionality, compassion, and respect for family unity into the deportation laws and policies of this country."

For more information on PDHRP, please visit