It’s been nearly two years since federal agents waited outside a Waterville home to grab a local businessman on his way to work. They took him by surprise and spirited him away to a cell without letting him say goodbye to his pregnant wife or two children. A few months later, the government put him on a plane for Haiti.

Was he a terrorist or a gang leader? No. Lexius Saint Martin was deported because of a 2007 court case in which the Haitian refugee pleaded guilty to selling small amounts of cocaine. Back in 2008, Saint Martin spent seven months in jail to pay for his crime, but 10 years later he was dealt a life sentence for the crime of being born in another country. He and his family have been caught in a political whirlpool driven by nativist ideology and fear of outsiders.

What has happened to Saint Martin’s family was unjust, cruel and completely unnecessary. But a positive development in his case this week can give his family reason to hope.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mills’ office acknowledged that she had pardoned Saint Martin for the drug charges on which the whole case is based. While that alone won’t guarantee that he can rejoin his family, it gives his lawyers a much stronger case when they appeal his deportation.

The case of Saint Martin, who is now 36, shows the inhumanity of making immigration status the only factor that matters.

He came to the United States lawfully when he was 11 in 1994. He doesn’t deny having become involved with drugs when he was working at the Augusta Walmart, and he doesn’t make excuses about his behavior. “At the time, I was young and I made a stupid choice,” he said.


The charges were serious, but what he’s done with his life since getting out of jail is at least as important as what he did before. Saint Martin got a job working for a cleaning company, eventually starting his own business, employing others. He married, raised children, volunteered in the community.

Some have argued that Saint Martin deserves the harsh treatment because he an immigrant. They say that the country should not have to harbor refugees who break the law, and those who do should not expect any sympathy.

But, like every case that comes through the criminal courts, this one should be judged on its individual circumstances. Yes, Saint Martin committed a crime when he was 24, but he took responsibility. Saint Martin has had a clean record since his release and he has not tried to hide from immigration authorities. The federal government did not need to tear this family apart to protect the community.

Every day, Fox News and the White House bombard us with anti-immigrant messages. We hear that we have to lock immigrant children in filthy cages or slam the door on refugees running for their lives if we want to keep America safe. But cases like this expose that empty rhetoric for what it is.

Mills did the right thing by pardoning Saint Martin, but justice won’t be done in this case until his family is reunited.

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