Thu | Mar 30, 2017

Paralysing fears

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2010 | 4:00 AM

Philip Hamilton, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Several Jamaicans who are holders of United States of America (US) visas are postponing trips to that country out of fear that they could lose their visas.

Others who are scheduled to have their visas renewed are adopting a wait-and-see approach before applying for renewal.

This paralysing fear of losing their visas has been induced by the US Department of Homeland Security's recent cancellation of visas held by five popular entertainers. And since it is believed that visa holders are hit with the unpleasant news only when checking in at the airline counter in preparation for departure, they are not willing to take that chance.

"I should be going to visit my daughter - who is studying abroad - in April, but I am cancelling. I don't want to purchase a ticket, turn up at the airport, and be told that my visa has been cancelled," a business-woman shared with The Sunday Gleaner.

With the exception of a noted businessman, Wayne Chen, whose case received much publicity in February when the issue first came to light, and, more recently, five popular entertainers, other Jamaicans who have found themselves in a similar situation have remained silent on the issue.

Cancellations

In a recent document published by The Gleaner's sister publication, The Weekend Star - on Thursday, April 1 - information from the US Embassy in Kingston's Fraud Prevention Arm revealed the visas of five top entertainers were in the process of being cancelled.

The document listed the entertainers as Rodney Basil Price (Bounty Killer), David Brooks (Mavado), Moses Anthony Davis (Beenie Man), Sheldon Ricardo Aitana Lawrence (Aidonia) and selector Garfield Augustus McKoy (Ricky Trooper)

Jennifer McDonald, CEO of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), in responding to questions asked by The Sunday Gleaner, said PICA did not possess a list of Jamaicans whose visas may have been revoked from any foreign country.

She said it was not PICA's business to advise Jamaicans that their visas for a foreign country had been revoked, noting that the agency was responsible only for processing of persons leaving the island.

Information leaked

However, The Sunday Gleaner has since learnt that the list of Jamaican entertainers whose visas were revoked was leaked by one of several airlines operating in Jamaica.

Attempts were made to obtain information from a number of airlines to ascertain whether the names of Jamaicans whose visas had been revoked had been issued directly from the US Embassy in Kingston.

Air Jamaica's CEO, Bruce Nobles, while acknowledging in an email that his airline had no information on the issue, directed the paper to the US Customs and Border Patrol's website.

American Airlines' country manager for Jamaica, Yvonne Pearson, in an emailed response, said the airline's corporate communications department had been handling requests from countries where it operated and could not say how soon an answer would be provided.

At the same time, Pearson suggested other airlines be contacted for comment in the interim, as well as the US Embassy.

However, a spokesperson at Delta's Kingston offices told The Sunday Gleaner "no comment" in response to several questions, after initially referring the paper to the airline's sales manager for Jamaica.

Attempts to obtain a comment from the US Embassy were unsuccessful as we were advised that the person responsible for handling such matters was unavailable.

philip.hamilton@gleanerjm.com