Brothers from Haiti held at SFO regardless of having visas; 9-year-old in ICE custody
Two brothers from Haiti were detained at San Francisco International Airport for more than a day on Sunday despite having visas to enter the United States, and the youngest, a 9-year-old boy, was placed in a government home for unaccompanied children sent attorney said Tuesday.
Christian Laporte, 19, who is enrolled at Diablo Valley College in Contra Costa County, and Vladimir Fardin, 9, were arrested at the airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Sunday, their lawyer Milli Atkinson said.
Atkinson, legal director of the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative, said officials had stripped the brothers’ visas and not allowed them to communicate with her or her family members.
Customs and Border Guard announced Tuesday that one of the brothers was missing the required documents while the other had plans to enroll in school – a tourist visa violation. Laporte was allowed to withdraw its attempt to enter the country instead of deportation. He flew to Mexico Tuesday morning and will eventually return to live with his mother, a spokesman said in an email.
Vladamir was turned over to immigration and customs and later moved to a government-run shelter for unaccompanied minors in San Diego, Atkinson said.
The accommodations are funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a subdivision of Health and Human Services that cares for unaccompanied minors and children who have been separated from their parents or guardians by immigration authorities.
Representatives for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jackie Speier said Tuesday they were “working on the matter” but declined to provide details, citing privacy restrictions.
Laporte, who studied in the United States on a student visa for several years – including two years in an East Coast boarding school – traveled to Haiti to be with the family over the holidays, Atkinson and his family said. When it was time to return to the US, Vladimir asked to meet with his older brother and accompanied him on a tourist visa.
“(Laporte) just wanted his brother to see schools in the US and decide whether the family might want to apply for a student visa for the 9-year-old in the future,” Atkinson said. “But when they got to the airport, they were questioned, interrogated and not allowed to speak to a lawyer. They weren’t allowed to talk to their family; Their visas were taken from them. “
But Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday the boy had previously attended elementary school in California on a tourist visa – a violation of the visa requirements – and plans to re-enroll.
The CBP spokesman said Laporte, who presented an F-1 student visa, was missing the required documents.
“CBP followed policies and procedures for processing the (unaccompanied minor),” the spokesman said. “Without a legally acceptable and legally recognized guardian in the United States, the (unaccompanied minor) has been turned over to enforcement and removal operations for transportation to the designated refugee resettlement facility.”
Atkinson said Monday that she believed the brothers were stopped by authorities because Laporte was missing an I-20 form. This document shows that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program in the United States and has adequate financial resources.
“Because of the vacation, he couldn’t get the one form from his college that he needed to get a student visa,” she said. “Since he’s stuck at the airport, he can’t access his information online. His family – because they cannot speak to him – cannot sign up for him to prove that he is a student and to solve any problems they want to have with the student visa. “
Atkinson said that immigration authorities initially seemed open to allowing the brothers to fly back to Haiti, but that they later said they would likely separate them.
Atkinson said authorities argued that they had no choice but to send the boy to the shelter – a claim they disproved.
“They are able to do something called a delayed inspection,” she said. “It’s something that they do all the time to give them a few days to sort out some of the paperwork problems and volunteer the kids to go with family members and adults. Instead, they send her into custody and put her through this horrific, traumatic process. “
A longtime family friend, Linsay Etienne, lives in Oakley. She said Vladimir never planned to stay in the US and planned to leave later this month.
She said the boys’ mother, Michaelle Pyroll, expected a call from immigration officials early Tuesday but hadn’t heard from them. The family didn’t know where Vladimir was until they spoke to the child on Tuesday afternoon.
Pyroll told The Chronicle on Monday that Laporte texted her on Sunday evening saying the two had been arrested by immigration authorities. She hasn’t heard from them since.
“I tried to text him. I tried to call him. Nobody answered, ”she said.
Pyroll, who lives in Haiti, said she could not travel to the US and had no way of reaching her sons.
“I need to talk to my sons,” she said. “I do not know what happened.”
Tatiana Sanchez is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @TatianaYSanchez