Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Travellers to United States concerned, not worried

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2010 | 4:00 AM
United States visa applicants gather in front of the embassy in Liguanea, St Andrew, in this Gleaner file photo. -Norman Grindley / Deputy Chief Photographer

Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter

JAMAICANS TRAVELLING to the United States of America (US) are concerned about the recent non-immigrant visa revocations of at least one prominent businessman and five entertainers, but are scared to comment openly about it.

Although the response was unsolicited, at least one Jamaican with a stern face made it known that she would not touch the issue with a 10-foot pole. Others, fearing possible repercussions, were not willing to speak on record.

Visa holders, it is reported, are not aware that their visa has been cancelled until they arrive at the airline check-in desk at the airport. Our news team captured the mood of travellers to the US at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston on Thursday.

Kathleen Sutherland, a Jamaican with dual citizenship, who was waiting on a flight back to New York, refused to give her real name but shared her thoughts. The baptised New Yorker is among a number of Jamaicans who think the revocations are linked to the extradition tussle between the US and Jamaica involving alleged drug kingpin, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. She is of the view that if the visa revocations are part of a broader punishment package crafted by the US to get Jamaica to extradite the man known in the streets as the 'president', then they are excessive.

"Honestly, I don't think one man should make all of this happen," she said.

She opined that the government of her adopted homeland was being unfair because it is said that the 'president' has never travelled to America. However, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that deals with extradition, travelling to the requesting state is not a prerequisite for a prima facie case to be made out against an individual and a subsequent extradition request sent.

Not losing sleep

Melissa Gibbs, 28, a resident of Constant Spring in St Andrew and Immaculate Conception High School alum who was heading to Atlanta on a four-day trip to attend her college graduation, admitted that she was concerned about the revocations, but was not losing any sleep over it based on the individuals targeted.

"Yes, there is some level of concern (but) I am not too concerned because it seems the revocations are leaning towards prominent figures and don't seem to affect the majority of Jamaicans," said Gibbs, who recently completed her online degree in business administration at the American Intercontinental University in Atlanta.

On the other hand, a bald-headed 48-year-old Jamaican man, who consented to being called 'Shinehead', had no worry. For all he cares, the American government can revoke any time. "Dem can keep that," said Shinehead, referring to his non-immigrant US visa that he lost a year before it expired and did not seek to have renewed.

"I'm uncomfortable in America," Shinehead said as he recalled his first trip to the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

He explained that the first time he travelled to the US was for a vacation, and that was when he realised that there was no place like home. Shinehead argued that the only good thing he saw in the US was the strength of its currency.

Another Jamaican who is also a US resident was willing to comment but was stopped in his tracks by his female companion, who was not travelling. While he was unpacking his overweight suitcase laden with bun and cheese, the man said he was not concerned for himself, as he was a green-card holder, but he was concerned about the possibility that more Jamaicans could have their visitor's visa revoked. But before he could speak another word, the woman who was helping him offload the bun and cheese into smaller bags, leapt into the conversation and said, "we don't want to say anything."