Pascal “Shakoure” Charpentier has lived in New York since he was three months old, and spent much of his life believing he was a U.S. citizen. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has maintained that Charpentier is a Haitian national and wants to deport him to Haiti – a country he has never been to.
About 20 immigrant advocates gathered outside Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office Thursday, calling on the governor to pardon Charpentier, 51, for a decades-old conviction.
Charpentier was arrested twice when he was a teenager, including when he was convicted of felony murder and spent almost 25 years in prison. Charpentier was a lookout during the 1990 mugging of a Utah tourist on the subway, which resulted in a homicide. He was released in 2015, as reported by Gothamist.
Charpentier has said that he was unarmed at the time, and was unaware that any violence was going to take place. Still, under New York law, if someone is killed during a robbery, every person taking part in the situation can be charged with murder. Charpentier was sentenced, along with six other co-defendants. In the years since, the convictions have come into scrutiny from activists, and one of Charpentier’s co-defendants was exonerated in the killing after serving more than 25 years in prison, receiving almost $18 million in settlements from the city and state.
Because Charpentier was convicted of an aggravated felony, he is eligible for deportation, ICE has said. In the summer of 2020, ICE agents came to his home in Queens and arrested him. He spent seven months in immigration detention in New Jersey. After he was released, an immigration judge ordered him deported to Haiti last year. He has appealed the decision, and is awaiting a decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals in the Justice Department.
“We are almost at the four-year mark of this nightmare having come into our home, our family, my community,” Charpentier said at the rally, highlighting how grateful he was for the support of those around him. “Thank you for taking up this fight, defending my family, being the compassionate New Yorkers and residents of this country and making that visible.”
Charpentier was born at a military base in Germany, where his father served during the Vietnam war, and his parents were born in Haiti. The family came back to New York in 1972 when Charpentier was a baby, and both his parents are U.S. citizens, he says.
One of Charpentier’s attorneys, Jessica Rofé with the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic, told Documented that it is unclear how Haiti became his country of origin in the immigration system. But, she stressed: “Gov. Hochul can help here.”
Advocates for Charpentier submitted a pardon in September of 2020, and say this is the most certain way that Charpentier will be able to stay in the U.S. with his 13-year-old daughter Anaelle and his fiancée Nathalie Sicard. Charpentier’s team originally submitted the pardon during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as governor, but it was still pending when Cuomo left office, Rofé said. A supplement was filed this October.
Charpentier’s legal team asserts that he is a U.S. citizen, but said that ICE is arguing that Charpentier is a green card holder subject to deportation on the basis of his criminal convictions. Rofé said that ICE has incorrectly asserted that Charpentier was born in Haiti.
“Pardon Shakoure, keep Shakoure home, and end these proceedings once and for all,” Rofé said to the crowd at the rally.
In the meantime, Charpentier has to wear an ankle monitor – which began beeping toward the end of the rally on Thursday morning. Charpentier said it was likely running out of battery. Sicard, Charpentier’s fiancée, stood beside Charpentier for much of the morning.
Charpentier’s potential deportation has impacted her “whole world,” Sicard said, adding that he’s been a father figure to her own daughter. “He has served his time — and I feel like he’s still serving time while fighting for his freedom,” she said. “It’s a nightmare.”
Gov. Hochul’s office and ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Immigration advocates worry that the clemency process lacks transparency. Organizations often wait for months, and even years, for updates on application status and often don’t get an official denial if the pardon is not granted, immigration attorneys have told Documented. While even limited interactions with local law enforcement can have drastic consequences on someone’s immigration status, the somewhat amorphous pardon system is often the single option for immigrants facing almost-certain deportation to stay in the United States. Charpentier’s supporters have no idea when, or if, pardon will come, but they hope that it could be granted during the holiday season.
Socheatta Meng, a co-Coordinator of the Clemency Coalition of New York, called on Gov. Hochul to sign off on the pardon immediately. “No one deserves to be separated from their family, from their community, and from the place that they love,” Meng said. “With the stroke of her pen, Gov. Hochul can change all this, transforming Shakoure’s life for the better.”