A Mastic man from Jamaica who was ordered to report to immigration authorities in Manhattan on Wednesday as part of deportation proceedings said he was given a temporary reprieve of three months and a chance to have his case reconsidered.
“It’s a new day,” Pernell Mitchell, 49, said during a telephone interview after he was permitted to leave the New York field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday afternoon.
Mitchell, who is married and has five children, has been under supervised release by ICE since 2014, with the requirement of regular check-ins with authorities.
An ICE official confirmed “that he will not be taken into custody today,” but could not discuss details of the agreement under which Mitchell was released.
He was ordered to be deported in 2010 by a federal immigration judge in Missouri after violating student visa provisions.
Mitchell said immigration officials are allowing him “to open the case from the time the decision was made” to deport him.
“It’s a good feeling, really a good feeling, because I came in not knowing what’s the outcome,” he said. “It’s a sigh of relief.”
A small group of advocates accompanied Mitchell to downtown Manhattan to support him.
“It’s obviously some relief and we are hoping for a long-term solution,” said Cheryl Keshner, senior paralegal with the nonprofit Empire Justice Center in Central Islip.
Mitchell has been checking in with ICE since February 2014, after he was detained following a traffic stop in Southampton. During last month’s appointment with the agency, he said, he was told to return Wednesday for possible deportation.
Mitchell holds two jobs doing maintenance — one at a sports facility and the other at a school district. He said one of his employers referred him to a lawyer who helped argue for the reprieve.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been pursuing strict enforcement to remove immigrants who are in the country illegally, especially when their deportation has been ordered by a judge — a practice consistent with President Donald Trump’s emphasis on enforcing immigration laws, increasing border security and curtailing programs under which immigrants in the United States can remain here on a temporary basis.
Mitchell came from Jamaica in 2004 on a student visa, with his wife and their two daughters. Since then, the couple has had three sons, all born in the United States.
The Mitchells initially settled in the Atlanta area while he attended a program for his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at Carver College, planning to become a pastor. He was found to have violated visa provisions by holding jobs in 2007 that did not relate to his field of study, as required.
Mitchell applied for a religious visa as he moved to become a pastor at a church in St. Louis, but his removal case proceeded and he was ordered to be deported in 2010.
His appeal was denied, according to ICE, and after he was told to leave the country, he and his family moved to Long Island. Mitchell has said that bad legal advice contributed to the missteps in his immigration case.