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Denaturalization: Is Anyone Safe?

On June 2, 2017, Odette Dureland’s daughter, Rebecca, opened their door to find Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Rebecca was unsure why ICE agents would be at their home because everyone in her family were United States citizens.  The ICE agents told Rebecca they had a warrant for Odette’s arrest.

An officer demanded Odette get dressed and then directed her to a government vehicle.

Odette, her husband, and her daughter had been citizens of the United States for five years ad had lived in the US for over twenty years after fleeing political violence in Haiti.

Odette’s husband, Gilbert, had participated in protests after the overthrow of the Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  This made him a target of the ruling party.  Gilbert suffered beatings and was thrown in jail.  He fled Haiti and came to the United States, where Odette and Rebecca eventually joined him.

Gilbert was eventually granted asylum.  He and his wife applied for green cards.  They worked as janitors and moved to an East Lake, Florida bungalow.  They had three more children after coming to the United States and their youngest is still in high school.  Rebecca works at a call center, another of the children is studying elementary education at a local college, and the other child is in training for the Air Force.

Odette, Gilbert, and Rebecca applied for citizenship in 2012 and took the oath of allegiance in 2013.  Rebecca recalled the experience, saying, “It felt big, like we were really American, even though I’ve been here for all my life…We came from a country where there was chaos…When we had the opportunity to become citizens, we thought this was the best thing to do, that it would provide safety.”

The Justice Department claims that before Gilbert applied for asylum, Odette applied under a different name and under that name had been ordered deported without her knowledge. Odette is being charged criminally.

Odette is one of many who are now subject to the critical eye of denaturalization.

To learn about the history of denaturalization in this country as well as the heightened scrutiny naturalized citizens are subject to under the Trump Administration, click here.