Jonas and Nadine betrayed in their homeland

Note: The names have been changed, but the facts have not.

Jonas and Nadine consider themselves fortunate they were able to attend school while growing up in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. They lived in neighboring communities,  later met and became a couple, well aware that many Haitian children don’t enjoy the same educational good fortune that they had.

Jonas had a cousin who wanted to give back to their hometown of St. Michel by starting a school for young children. He recruited Jonas and Nadine to help. Together they created an organization funded through donations – including their own – and a year later they opened the school. 

The families of St. Michel were so excited to have access to affordable education that they donated wood and other building materials. Jonas was in charge of buying notebooks, pens, textbooks, and other supplies. He also bought wholesale clothing and perfume and sold them in the capital city of Port-Au-Prince, donating the proceeds to the school. 

When the school opened, one class was reserved for children who had never attended school because their parents couldn’t afford it. The other class was for children who already knew how to read and write. Between the first and second terms, the number of registered students doubled from 150 to 300.

That’s when problems for the founders escalated. They became unwillingly drawn into Haiti's chronic atmosphere of political unrest. 

The success of the school and the organization led to rumors that they were a front for a political party. About a year after it was founded, the organization’s offices were vandalized. Jonas escaped to Mexico because of constant persecution, threats and demands. Nadine took over his responsibilities, such as buying supplies. She was also an advisor for the school and organization. 

The situation worsened dramatically when men with guns and masks raped Nadine and Jonas’s sisters. The men asked Nadine about Jonas and knew he was in Mexico. Another founding member’s father was killed in St. Michel. Soon after these incidents, most of the founders fled Haiti. 

In February 2013, Jonas and Nadine presented themselves to U.S. immigration officers at the border in San Diego. They came to Portland that same month and were married in Oregon.

The Safe Route Immigration program of LCSNW filed for asylum for them in 2013, and an immigration judge granted them asylum status in 2018.