Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | Jamaicans are Republicans at home

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Immigration policy isn't an easy or straightforward subject. For instance, I was once holding forth among a group of native-born Americans, explaining that according to my immigration policy, there would be open borders for all Hispanic women aged 18 and 40, 5'7" or above, and between 125lb and 155lb - with special emphasis, of course, on Cuban, Dominican, Colombian and Venezuelan refugees. Something has to be done about those countries!

I was in full flight when, regrettably, the discussion got unnecessarily serious as they explained that in their community, within one generation, the population of Hispanic immigrants registering children in the public schools had mushroomed from a negligible percentage to near half of the school cohort. Many of those did not speak English and, they suspected, were illegal.

During that time, and partly because of the additional requirements brought on by the incoming flood, the property taxes on their homes had also ballooned. Schools are generally paid for through property taxes in the United States.

My mind immediately ran to what would happen in Jamaica if there had been a near tenfold increase in Haitians over one generation, at least partially to blame for a massive increase in taxation. My guess is that there would be blood in the streets.

I'm not arguing here for any particular immigration policy prescription for the Unites States, or Jamaica. I am, though, interested in how we judge others by such different standards than we apply to ourselves.


Taking it home


Consider for a moment this scene:

We're in Jamaica, and at a political rally in the early warming-up stages. The women and men are streaming in, dressed in their bright colours, spliffs hanging from their jaw corners. Liquor is being bought, or supplied, in abundance. Note that when a politician speaks of 'giving the charge', it refers equally to the exhortation to the masses to supply political energy to the campaign, as well as to the ample preparatory work of assistive substances that open up the mass-mind to these entreaties.

But so far, so good; the music is playing and people are sometimes dancing. No one naw cuss; no shot naw buss; fyah ah bun (against the other side); but no blood naw run. The people are bubbling.

The early speakers come and try to say something memorable. Down/Up with the Red/Green shirts! Some in the crowd might hear and register a word or two, but mostly it's stuff they've heard before. They're generally unimpressed.

Still, as the crowd gathers and the liquor flows, the mood gets more 'charged'. Now the political heavyweights start to appear and, as a general rule, the physical proportion of the man or woman will equate unnervingly closely with the political gravamen accorded to what he or she has to say.

On to the stage comes a politician who announces that he is unbendingly in favour of higher taxes, abortion on demand, gay marriage, removal of any signs of religion from the schools, and the mass importation of Haitians into Jamaica for settlement purposes.

How unnuh really tink dat woulda goh?

My guess is that he might have a minute or two before those words and ideas penetrate and register, at which time the people beside him on stage might have to start dodging bottles - or rather - 'bakkle'.

In the 2011 debate when Portia said she wouldn't block a homosexual from being in her Cabinet, this was fodder for years thereafter about her intent to 'upfront dem man deh' and regularly trotted out as proof that she had given them a licence to practise.

In short, we here are struggling with definitions of sex and we have a heated argument going on about whether buggery should be illegal. But immediately as we cast our eyes overseas, the conversation changes dramatically.

I'm constantly amazed how supposedly intelligent people hold one set of views as they sit in the departure lounge in Kingston, Jamaica, but upon boarding the iron bird and landing safely in Fort Lauderdale, have completely flipped the switch. How long is that flight?

Thus it is that a man will bark: "I would never support a political party that wants to bring in gay marriage and force transgender bathrooms on my children" at 8 a.m. in Kingston, but by 11:30 a.m. the same day will be driving around with his 'Obama: Yes We Can!' bumper sticker proudly displayed.


Would Jamaicans tolerate it?


Think again about immigration for a moment. Would Jamaicans tolerate illegal immigration on anything near the scale that Americans do? Imagine if restrictions get so comprehensive, and patrolling so effective, that instead of heading to the United States, Cubans and Haitians decide to settle in Jamaica. Let's say that some of them go about it in the prescribed way, while others simply fly into the country and don't bother to leave. How yuh tink dat woulda really goh?

Next, consider what it would be like if Jamaicans were told that there will no longer be any prayers in school. No morning prayers. No prayers before meals. And if a fellow student should happen to be involved in a tragedy, no prayers at that time either. How dat woulda goh?

On top of that, the sex education manual approved by the European Union will become the textbook of choice for all schools across the nation. In other words, it will be explained to children that two men may become the fathers of a child, or two women the mothers, in alternatively designed families. How would that play out here?

How about abortion? The Democratic Party's platform essentially endorses abortion on demand, and advocates that but taxpayer money should fund them. Would Jamaicans tolerate that?

As I said, although Jamaicans are overwhelmingly Democratic leaning when they're screaming at the television, or when they land in America, they're Republicans at home. What a difference a few hundred miles can make!

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to