Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Under Trumponomics, Jamaica told to expect less remittances, more deportees

Published:Wednesday | January 25, 2017 | 1:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
Immigration lawyer Dahlia Walker-Huntington and CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung, are seen here at the economic forum ‘Trumponomics: Repercussions for Jamaica’, hosted by Victoria Mutual Wealth Management at Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Monday, January 23.

Should the United States government follow through on a mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, Jamaica will feel the effects immediately on its remittance flows from that market, according to immigration lawyer Dahlia Walker-Huntington.

The Jamaican Government should therefore "look into this fact sooner rather than later, because that's going to be the first impact" of US President Donald Trump's immigration policy, she said at a forum hosted in Kingston to assess the repercussions for Jamaica from 'Trumponomics'.

Another presenter, in his take on trade, said Trump's trade policies could be advantageous for Jamaica if the US increases border taxes for Mexico and China.

It would make "our products more competitive," said CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung.

Walker-Huntington said there is no concrete data on the number of undocumented Jamaicans in the US, but based on the Migration Policy Institute's estimates of the number of Caribbean people, "I calculate that there are about 67,000 to 70,000 Jamaicans who are undocumented," she told the forum hosted by Victoria Mutual Wealth Management Limited.

Walker-Huntington said the undocumented tend to be the most recent arrivals and are more likely to send money back home.

"So if we start having those people being deported en masse, the trickle-down effect or the impact is going to be felt immediately because there are so many people in Jamaica who depend solely on somebody sending them remittances every month," the immigration lawyer said.

She believes that the impact of Trump's stated plans and policies will first hit young people who went to the US as children and were beneficiaries of President Barack Obama's programme known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

"There are many Jamaicans in this category whose parents took them to America on visas or gave them bogus identification to enter America, and after graduating from high school, some of them realise they weren't even Americans. And so President Obama deferred any of their deportation," she said.

STRICT ENFORCEMENT

The second major impact will be on those who entered the US on bogus documents as well or those who went on legitimate visas and overstayed their time. The third group, said Walker-Huntington, are green card holders who have committed crimes in the past, some of them very minor, for which they serve no time in jail, but viewed by immigration as serious offences.

"You can expect enforcement there to be stepped up," she said, noting that Attorney General-designate Jefferson Sessions indicated in his confirmation hearing that he will strictly enforce immigration laws.

"Jamaica needs to be prepared for an increase in the number of deportees," Walker-Huntington said, adding that it needs to develop a deportee resettlement and reintegration plan.

Earlier, Walker-Huntington said that although she was asked to address Trump's stated or implied direction on immigration and his policies' impact on Jamaica, "that's a very difficult task because Trump has had different stances on immigration for the last year and a half" and keeps promising to come up with a plan.

"In his latest position on January 18, he said that in two to three months, he will have a plan," she said.

She also cited a newspaper report, which suggested that if Trump carries out his plan to build a border wall with Mexico, it could result in the diversion of illegal drug flows from Mexico and South and Central America to the Caribbean.

"That would also have a crippling effect on Jamaica," the lawyer said. Chung believes the impact of Trump's policies on Jamaica will not be immediate and might be more pronounced in the medium to long term. He wants Jamaica to maintain good ties with the new US administration.

"I think we should position ourselves from a diplomatic point of view to see how we can keep that relationship going," he said.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com