Deportee alarm - More than 6,000 Jamaicans in danger of being booted from US
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaica should brace itself for a wave of deportees from the United States as the number of locals in Uncle Sam's jails has swelled. Clifford Chambers, security attaché at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, told The Gleaner that more than 6,000 Jamaicans were now in US custody facing deportation proceedings.
Chambers, however, said he could not estimate how many of this number would eventually be sent back as each case would be considered on merit.
"In recent times, we are faced with an influx of Jamaicans in US custody who are facing deportation, and that has to do with the beefing up of staff in the immigration and customs sections by the US authorities," Chambers said.
He added: "The majority of them are not really felony charges. The majority of them are people who come here legally and have overstayed their visas."
Between 2002 and 2009, more than 13,000 Jamaicans were deported from the US, the Jamaican Embassy says. Last year, the US showed the red card to more than 1,400 persons.
Chambers said many persons fighting deportation were tasting success.
"In recent times, we find that a lot of these persons are being allowed to stay because of the reasons and circumstances behind their applications," Chambers said.
Time for dual citizenship
Mindful of the situation, Jamaica's ambassador to Washington, Audrey Marks, said it was an issue of great concern.
She urged Jamaicans living in the US, and who were eligible to become citizens there, to pursue that process.
Marks said she aimed to work with expatriate Jamaicans to help restructure diaspora organisations to give more support to the island's development agenda.
"We have to get very involved in persuading people to become citizens of the US, as they can have more political influence," Marks said.
The ambassador argued that citizenship would be a shield for Jamaicans against deportation.
"There is so much protection in the system that people are not using out of ignorance," Marks said.
She told The Gleaner that some persons virtually spend their entire lives in the US without obtaining citizenship and get booted back to Jamaica because of traffic violations.
"We have to get into some strong negotiations in looking at the way people are separated from their families," Marks said.
She added that it was "amazing that the families of non-felons are disrupted" because of violations such as traffic offences and has pledged to work towards ironing out agreements on how to proceed with such deportation matters.