Cansery Goguette has spent the past seven years learning English, is one test away from his high school diploma, and on May 12 was honored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education as their 2017 Outstanding Student of the Year. He may never see his full educational potential realized, though.
By Anna Burgess
BROCKTON – Haitian immigrant Cansery Goguette has dreams of becoming a police investigator.
He has spent the past seven years learning English, is one test away from his high school diploma, and on May 12 was honored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education as their 2017 Outstanding Student of the Year.
He may never see his full educational potential realized, though.
This year, Goguette will likely be forced to return to Haiti when his Temporary Protected Status expires.
“If I go back to my country without my high school diploma, I can’t do anything,” he said. “I don’t want to leave, but if they urge us to leave, it’s the law.”
Goguette, who fled Port-au-Prince with his two sons following a January 2010 earthquake that left his family temporarily homeless, came to the United States for a brighter future than the bleak situation in Haiti.
Goguette was able to secure visas for himself and his sons, who were both born in the United States years earlier, but his wife’s passport was lost in the earthquake. She couldn’t get a visa, and had to stay in Haiti.
Along with approximately 50,000 other Haitians, Goguette was given Temporary Protected Status by then-president Barack Obama’s administration.
When he met with immigration officers in Massachusetts, Goguette told them, “I want to stay to help my sons.”
With TPS for Haitians extended several times by the Obama administration, Goguette has now been here for over seven years.
His older son, Mick, is now a junior at Brockton High School, and his younger son, Noah, is in seventh grade at South Middle School.
Goguette, a musician, plays gospel music at churches around the state, and will soon start a second job as an Uber driver.
Over the past seven years, he has thrived at the Brockton Adult Learning Center, said ALC program coordinator Kathy Quinn.
Goguette has learned English and completed four of five tests required to earn his high school diploma.
He is also a student ambassador for the ALC, helping beginning-level English language students fill out registration forms and enroll in classes, and a student representative on the ALC Advisory Board.
Goguette said he likes school, and works hard, but was very surprised to receive the Student of the Year Award from the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “This is not my country, and there are a lot of people they could have chosen.”
The MCAE gives the award each year to an adult education student who has overcome “significant challenges,” demonstrated leadership, and supported adult education peers.
Jeff McLynch, the MCAE director, said Goguette “is the embodiment of what MCAE seeks to recognize.”
Less than three months after receiving his award, Goguette is scheduled to be deported.
John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, has until May 23 to decide when to send the 50,000 Haitians with TPS back to their home country.
Though their scheduled deportation date is July 22, Kelly was sent a recommendation by US Immigration Services to give the Haitian immigrants until January to leave the country.
Kelly could also choose to continue the TPS program for another 18 months.
TPS status is offered to foreign nationals who cannot return to their home country because of armed conflict, natural disasters, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions.”
People like Quinn are now arguing that conditions in Haiti have not improved enough, since the country is experiencing a cholera epidemic and was hit by a hurricane last October.
Quinn wrote about Haiti’s continuing issues in a statement she sent to local legislative representatives, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
The statement emphasized Goguette’s MCAE award, his contributions to his community, and the devastation he would feel leaving the country without his diploma.
“I want them to know that there are really wonderfully capable people, contributing to our society, who are being sent home,” Quinn said.
As of last week, she hadn’t heard back from any officials.
McLynch said it would be “a tremendous loss” for the Brockton community if Goguette’s TPS is allowed to expire.
Goguette would also be faced with the difficult decision of whether to take his sons away from their lives here, or to leave them here alone.
They were both born when his wife previously lived in the United States, and could stay without Goguette, but he would be heartbroken to leave them.
“They don’t ask me about TPS, but I know they know,” he said.
He connected with an immigration attorney through the ALC, Goguette said, and is hoping for the best.
“Maybe there’s something we can do,” he said, “but we have to wait until the government makes a decision.”