Calvin Prison Initiative student faces deportation

Photo+courtesy+of+Berenice+Albright
Back to Article
Back to Article

Calvin Prison Initiative student faces deportation

Photo courtesy of Berenice Albright

Photo courtesy of Berenice Albright

Photo courtesy of Berenice Albright

Photo courtesy of Berenice Albright

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In 1993, 22-year-old Rafael DeJesus was sentenced to 60-100 years in prison for a first-time non-violent drug offense. DeJesus is a student enrolled in the Calvin Prison Initiative program working toward an associate degree in ministry leadership. After serving over 25 years in prison, he received commutation by former Governor Rick Snyder. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, instead of being released to his sister, Berenice Albright, and her family, DeJesus was picked up by ICE and taken to an immigration detention center. He is currently facing deportation.

“One of the kindest, sweetest and most appreciative people I know” are the words long-time Calvin professor Lee Hardy used to describe DeJesus. Hardy taught DeJesus in his PHIL-153 Introduction to Philosophy class.

Born in the Dominican Republic in 1969, Rafael DeJesus grew up with a dream of playing baseball in hopes of making it professionally. Unfortunately, an arm injury ended his Major League Baseball dreams. His sister expressed that, as a kid, he was known for his love of baseball.

While in prison, DeJesus has been an active member in the community by assisting in conflict-resolution within the prison, knitting hats for children with cancer, training dogs as service animals for the visually impaired community, and becoming a carpenter. His carpentry has contributed to building projects for Habitat for Humanity. In addition, as he is fluent in both English and Spanish, DeJesus has served as a translator for other inmates who do not speak English.

Hardy added, “[Rafael] was a good and conscientious student… like many of his fellow inmates, he taught me much about the power of Christian gospel to change lives and deliver a sense of hope and mission in an environment that would drive most people to despair.”

DeJesus’ sister has been his advocate during his time in prison. She has expressed disappointment in the justice system over her brother’s sentencing because he was a first-time nonviolent offender who, in his time in prison, “paid his dues.” Albright shared that by telling this story with the Calvin community, she hopes “students will call or write to Governor Whitmer asking her to grant Rafael pardon so that he can stay in this country with his family, friends and community of faith.”

Albright stressed that in a country of opportunity and second chances, she feels that her brother deserves a second chance at redemption to continue his studies as a man of faith. If DeJesus is deported, “[he] is being sent to a place where he would be homeless and has no family. His life, family and community are here.”

DeJesus’ parents have both passed away. His mother continually fought for her son in her life and now Albright continues the fight for her brother’s freedom.

DeJesus intended to enroll at Calvin upon his release prior to being detained by ICE, to continue his education in an offer that was extended through the CPI. Albright continues to fight for her brother and seek justice for DeJesus. She expressed that she is “grateful that Calvin College gave Rafael an opportunity in life.”

Stay tuned as Chimes follows this developing story.