Letter of the Day | ‘Mi want come a mi yaad’, but priced out of it!
THE EDITOR, Madam:
I am writing this letter with a heavy heart, and so that others wishing to pursue the same path can be forewarned. I am a Jamaican who migrated to America almost 30 years ago. I came to America with $25 in my pocket and a weekend bag. I was uneducated and spent many years being homeless.
I worked hard doing menial labour, at times below the minimum wage. Along the way, I went to school at night and got my high school diploma. After earning my high school diploma, I went on to college. Over the past 20 years, I have worked and sacrificed to get on a solid footing in my life, in the hope that one day I would be able to return to Jamaica.
As with many Jamaicans who migrated, I left a parent behind in Jamaica. Five years ago, the decision was made to bring my mother to live with me here. My mother was in her 70s at the time and already in poor health. Four months after she moved here, I was forced to send her back to Jamaica because of illness and isolation. I decided at that time that the best option would be to return to Jamaica sooner, despite not being of retirement age.
I had saved some money over a period of 20 years and my plan was to use that to finance an early retirement. I started the process to return four years ago. I purchased two adjoining lots of land in Portland (my home parish), with plans to build a primary dwelling and additional rooms I could sublet for income until I am eligible to get social security payments.
Needless to say, at every step of the way I have met with obstacles that would drive any sane person to the madhouse. I was able to persevere throughout this process, and have met some incredible people along the way.
Of all the obstacles I have faced, dealing with the Jamaica Customs had to be the worst of my experiences. With my mother severely ill and not having reliable caregivers, time is of the essence to return home. With my property in Jamaica close to completion and the house in America sold, I put all my personal belongings in storage. In January 2022, I started the process to return to Jamaica.
In March 2022, I sent a request to Jamaica Customs to obtain returning resident status. I submitted all the requested paperwork. I received a denial from Customs stating that I was actively working, therefore I am not eligible. Their instruction was to reapply after September 2022.
I responded by telling them that my belongings were in storage and I will be returning to Jamaica on September 21, so applying then doesn’t make good sense. The returning resident status was declined again.
My next move was to ship my belongings without the returning resident approval. After receiving three quotations, which range from $6,500 to $18,560 to ship and clear the container. I opted to ship it and find a broker to clear it for me.
The container is packed with used furniture, clothing, and personal effects. Additionally, I shipped two 49cc scooters costing US$3,000 (scooters were all I could afford), hearing frightening information about shipping cars to Jamaica; washer – US$500; dryer – US$560; and some alcohol (I was hoping to celebrate). All receipts were presented to customs.
Jamaica Customs put a value on the items. The two scooters were valued at US$10,000; washer – US$1,500; dryer – US$1,500; and alcohol – over US$2,000. In total, customs is charging US$29,000 to clear the container.
I am heartbroken and saddened by the heartless way in which Jamaica Customs has handled my case. Knowing what I know now, I would never encourage anyone to return to or invest in Jamaica.
As I sit here writing this letter, all I have in America is the clothes on my back. I have invested all my savings into building my house and shipping my belongings there. There’s no way I can afford to pay US$29,000 to clear a container with the total value of US$7,000.
I don’t know where else to turn. I want to believe there is still goodness in people, but all I see is greed. Who is the voice of reason at Jamaica Customs? Is someone watching this aberrant behaviour?
MAXINE KING WEBSTER