Sheriff: Members of Haitian Special Olympics delegation go missing in Osceola County
By Jesse Canales and Stephanie Bechara | Spectrum News Staff
Posted Jun. 07, 2022
OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Six members of the Haitian Special Olympics USA Games delegation have gone missing, officials with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
What You Need To Know
- The individuals were in the U.S. for the soccer competition
- Of the six men missing, only one is an athlete
- Anyone with information about these missing men should call authorities at 321-697-4546
The individuals were in the U.S. for the soccer competition, investigators said.
They were last seen at about 2:30 p.m. in the area of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a press release from the Sheriff’s Office said.
All six men “turned in their room keys, and left behind their personal bags and belongings,” the release stated.
The missing individuals were identified as:
- Antione Joseph Mithon, 32
- Nicholson Fontilus, 20
- Peter Mianovich Berlus, 19
- Anderson Petit-Frere, 18
- Steevenson Jacquet, 24
- Oriol Jean, 18
While the six men were said to be part of the Haitian delegation, officials with the Special Olympics USA Games said only one of them was an athlete. A statement from the games did not specify who was the athlete and who wasn’t.
“Local authorities have indicated they have no reason to believe the health and safety of any of the individuals is at risk,” the statement said.
The Special Olympics team released a statement that reads:
“The well-being of these delegates is our foremost concern … To expand the reach and effectiveness of law enforcement’s efforts to locate these individuals, they have been reported as missing persons.”
Anyone with information about the location of any of the missing athletes is asked to contact Detective J.A. Covas, with the OCSO Persons Crimes Unit at 321-697-4546.
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office officials said they are in contact with Disney World, the Special Olympics, and “law enforcement and federal partners” as the search for the missing athletes continues.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has indicated there is no reason to believe the health and safety of any of the individuals is at risk.
The sheriff’s office also hasn’t confirmed if this a defection case, only that’s in a missing person’s case and doesn’t suspect any foul play. But, if they were to have defected, the next question would be if they violated their visas.
Orlando immigration lawyer Nayef Mubarak says for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles the athletes applied for a B-1/B-2 Visas or a business or tourist visa. In that same Department of State application, it stated the visas were annotated specifically for the Special Olympics. So, if this was granted with special requirements for attending the Special Olympics, then the six athletes would be in violation.
“The state department would say they would be in violation because they’re not here for what they said they’re here for. So, they could be accused of visa fraud. You could probably make an argument that they didn’t violate it under B-1 because it’s such a broad visa,” said Mubarak.
He also says that even if attending the Special Olympics wasn’t a requirement then, the government can still argue they misrepresented and obtained visas under false pretenses.
Mubarak says if they’re looking to defect then they can apply for asylum within a year it’s a long and grueling process that can up to six years before they even receive an interview for their asylum case.
“Just by applying for asylum doesn’t mean you’ll be approved or granted. It’s one of the most difficult to approve under the INA and immigration laws. It’s a very high standard.”
Another visa that they could potentially be here with is the P-1 visa which is given to athletes participating in a tournament. Since they didnt’ take part in the Special Olympics, they would be in violation of that visa. Even if they’re arrested by ICE after violating a visa Mubarak says it typically doesn’t lead to immediate deportation. They have rights to a hearing and may be eligible to bond out of detention.
As of now ICE, isn’t involved in this case because it’s a missing person’s case, the Department of State handles visas, and ICE focuses on immigration law. If it is ever determined the athletes violated their visas, that would be a violation of immigration law and ICE would get involved.
Source: Spectrum News 13