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Overstaying Jamaicans at risk of being kicked out US

Published:Friday | June 21, 2019 | 12:29 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

Jamaicans who have overstayed their visas for long periods have been warned by immigration attorneys to regularise their status in the face of threats by the Trump administration to kick out millions of migrants living illegally in the United States.

The call has come from immigration attorneys Wayne Golding and Marlon Hill, who participated in Monday’s roundtable on Implications of Immigration Reform Civic Engagement – Census 20 at the 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference.

Time is running out for many Jamaican and other Caribbean nationals who are undocumented or overstaying immigrants, said Golding.

“We have been in the United States of America for a very long time, and the time has come for us to really stop the skylarking and really get serious,” Hill told the packed gathering at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

Golding urged expats to tap into the benefits of dual citizenship, including greater access to jobs in the formal sector.

“The ones who have become US citizens have certain rights – to vote, get certain jobs, to take advantage of more opportunities that are there for citizens, have a stronger voice within their own communities,” he said.

FULL CITIZENSHIP

The immigration lawyer also advised permanent residents to stop dawdling and become full citizens.

“They are just ignorant. They are just sitting there and, well, ‘I don’t need this,’ and what happens to those people is that they are in a very precarious position because it’s like you rent a house versus owning a house, and you can be subjected to being deported from the United States for any reason.”

Golding lamented the fact that he had known people who had been green card holders for 40 years who had not taken the steps to acquire citizenship.

“That’s where the difficulty comes in because when people hear us talk about getting regularised or straight, it’s not that you just go somewhere and get your documentation automatically. You have to qualify,” he said.

Some people can’t get it, also because of how they came into the country. Many of them came in without inspection, so even if they were eligible through marriage, they can’t get it unless they come back to Jamaica, and if they come back to Jamaica, they get stuck.

“A lot of them are here and you wouldn’t even know that they don’t have their paperwork, and sometimes when you see people can’t come home for a very long time, that’s usually the reason, but it’s more difficult for them to transition from being in the country illegally to actually getting their paperwork.”

People who overstay for more than a year may be barred from re-entering the US for 10 years.

Golding told The Gleaner that most Caribbean people come into the US with a visa which they overstayed and so immigration knows about them – to some degree.

He added: “What has changed fundamentally is that when the US president first started talking against immigrants, he was talking about people who came in illegally over the borders. The emphasis has shifted from those who came who came in over the wall or through the river. They have now widened the thing to include people who came in legally and overstayed.”