Lexius Saint Martin was stopped by federal agents outside his home in Waterville on Jan. 2. Instead of going to work at the successful commercial cleaning business he’d founded, he was taken to jail where he was held until his deportation to Haiti a few weeks later.

This was supposedly done to protect America, but protect us from what, exactly? Did the country really need to be protected from a hard-working small businessman? Did his community need to be protected from a responsible taxpayer? Did his family have to be protected from a loving father and husband?

Saint Martin is no saint — he pleaded guilty to dealing crack cocaine in 2007, and served seven months in jail. But since serving his sentence he has behaved in an exemplary manner.

His crime was serious, but so was his attempt to make good, and if not for the accident of his birthplace (he came to the United States at the age of 11) he would be held up as a role model for others who need to turn their lives around.

INJUSTICE

What has happened to Saint Martin and his family was an injustice, one that was compounded this week by Gov. Paul LePage, who announced that he would not exercise his executive power to pardon Saint Martin for the drug offense still on his record that is the cause of his deportation. In a text message to a reporter, the governor said that he couldn’t forgive Saint Martin for not doing more to help himself in the years before his arrest.

“My problem with this case was he had nearly 10 years to address the pardon and his immigration issues,” LePage wrote. “He completely ignored our laws until they caught up with him. Where was his support system during this time? Why was he not thinking of his family and what if — he got deported!!!!!!”

It’s hard to imagine a less charitable message to send just before Thanksgiving. LePage claims that Saint Martin “ignored” our laws, but the evidence shows quite the opposite. By all accounts, after his incarceration, Saint Martin scrupulously observed the law.

The governor is on board with what is essentially a life sentence for a family because he doesn’t think they were smart enough to manipulate the legal system. In this analysis, Saint Martin’s unforgivable crime was focusing on working and raising a family during a decade when law-abiding immigrants like him were not being deported unless they committed new crimes.

POLITICAL UPHEAVAL

Saint Martin is the victim of a political upheaval, one which turned anti-immigrant rhetoric into policy. Through no fault of his own, he was yanked out of a productive life and lumped in with people who really don’t belong here, like terrorists or drug smugglers.

LePage couldn’t reverse this policy, but he could have declared that, at least in Maine, people are treated as individuals and are judged on what they do. LePage could have helped a family that has been torn apart by an overzealous government while sending a message to thousands of Mainers who have been convicted of crimes. A pardon for Saint Martin would have said that you can earn back society’s trust if you work hard and follow the law.

LePage will be leaving office in little more than a month, and Saint Martin will be able to reapply for a pardon in one year. Maybe Gov.-elect Janet Mills will give this case another look and do the right thing.

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