Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Deportees and Moving Back

I was sent the following letter to the editor and felt compelled to publish it:

Dear Reader,

Until a month ago, I never gave much thought to the problem of deportees. Although a good friend of mine had gone out of her way to reach out to them and to spend a significant amount of her own money to do so, the issue had for some time been tucked away somewhere in the back of my consciousness. That was up until four weeks ago, when one of my best friends arrived in Jamaica to waylay her son who is in the process of being deported

My friend, suffering from acute arthritis, which makes it difficult for her to walk and to use her arms, spent two weeks in my home waiting to see her son whom she had not laid eyes on for over a year. After two anxious weeks, and having incurred the expense of an airline ticket, she packed her bags as I watched, and left for the United States. The last thing she said to me was, "Betty, could you please pray for him to come home safely." She left, without seeing her son. The deportee plane had not come when she thought it would. She was heartbroken, and I could see it.

That was what led to the process of my education about the phenomenon of deportation, and to the access I have been afforded to meet some of the young men we call deportees. I felt compelled to write a part of their story.

It was while my friend was with me that I met John (not his right name). In fact, my reluctance to use the young man's name, even his first name, speaks to the problem deportees experience in having to live "incognito" in order to survive.
When I met John, I knew that I was not looking into the face of a deportee - I was looking into the face of a human being. He was well-dressed, and his handsome looks and lean physique made it impossible for anyone to know that he is a deportee. But it was his gentle voice and kind manner that captured my attention. John was one of eight young men, including my friend's son, who had been convicted for drug trafficking, and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. He was only 19 years old when he was arrested.

"I made a bad mistake as a young man", John admitted to me, "and I understood that I had to pay for it." John served 19 years and a few months of a 20-year sentence. He is now 39 years old. He had migrated to the United States when he was 16 years of age. That meant that when he landed in Jamaica and walked off as a free man, he had only seen the outside world for three years since adolescence.

"I must have moved about 20 times within the US federal prison system," he recalled. "The first one was a maximum security facility, and then over the years, they move you to downgraded prisons. It was when I got to one of the minimum security prisons, where I spent seven years, that I found myself reunited with several of my co-defendants. It became a little easier after that."

"We all bonded and stuck together as Jamaicans. We looked out for each other, and spent every moment we got trying to get information on Jamaica. Although we all learned how to use the computer, we had no access to the Internet of course, so we had to rely on Jamaican newspapers that were sent to us by our families, to get the news of what was happening back home."

One of John's fellow inmates told me that he literally 'studied' the Observer every time he got a copy, so much so that when he arrived in Jamaica, he knew all the current events, including the names of ministers of government. I laughed when he told me that while applying for a job, he helped Jamaicans living here answer questions about Jamaica on their application forms that they didn't know.

"I made up my mind half-way through my imprisonment that I wanted to come back home and contribute to Jamaica," said John. "Not all deportees want to come back home. Some of them stay in the Immigration Detention Centre and fight the legal deportation battle for years. Many of them are afraid to come home because of the crime situation we would read about in the newspapers.

"Everyone of us who decided to come home, talked in prison about starting our own business when we got back to Jamaica. In fact, many deportees now have small businesses already. Mrs Blaine, you would be surprised to know how many deportees are sitting in big positions in this country and doing very well for themselves.

"People think that all deportees are bad people," John continued. "There are basically three types of deportees. One set decides from before they leave prison that they are not staying in Jamaica because it is too hard, and in no time after landing in Jamaica you hear that they are gone to England, Canada or back to the United States. The second set are like me and my friends who decided long ago that we wanted to come home and help build Jamaica. Then, there is the third set who come back and fall into trouble, but those are in the minority, and those are the ones who land back into the communities where they were connected to criminal activities before they left Jamaica.

"The other thing that Jamaicans don't know is that there are middle-class and rich people's children who are also deported. It's not just the poor. In prison, there are Jamaicans from all walks of life - college students, professionals, everybody - and the brilliance and skills they have are amazing."

"What's the most difficult part of being deported?" I asked, "Leaving my family behind," John replied with sadness in his voice. Almost all of the deportees have mothers who live outside of Jamaica, and while the ones I met get help from them, these are men physically separated from their mothers.

With love,


At 11/17/2007 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter's father was recently caught w/ 17 lbs of marijuana, we were married almost 7 yrs ago- he never applied 4 citizenship here in the U.S. and I've been researching some things and due to immigration law even if they reduce the charge he is more than likely going back to Jamaica. All he's told me is that they're going to fight to keep him here. He wants me to stay positive- we aren't together anymore- but I just know the time is going to come when he has to go and I'm just worried how its going to affect our daughter- she's only 4- and she loves him so much.I don't know what or how to explain it to her.

At 12/10/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I to am going through a similar situation , my partner an father of my 10 yr old daughter will be being deported in january, he has lived in the uk since he was 15 yrs of age, now at 31 he is frightend and scared with no family left in jamaica where is he to go? i worry every day about his safety and how he is to make a life for himself in a place he no longer knows.

At 1/22/2008 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe you women should make better choices when looking for men to father your children. I hope they will deport all these drug dealer back to jamaica. Children are better off not having this kind of fathers in their life. I have no sympathy for any of you.

At 3/11/2008 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello stupid heartless a.. hole who, "wish they shipped all the drug dealers back to Jamaica." What planet are you from? what are you a psycopath? As long as Jamaicans are here earning an honest living they are fine right? They 'bust there buts,' pays taxes does everything right. These are people who have been here since thy were just kids and are legal premanent residence. Now I dont think we need your sympathy but it is not right to send these people back to Jamaica when they have no ties there and are just outcast. When they go back the greater percentage of these will fall into more illegality because they no longer have there families to be there for them. I believe if they commit crime in the US that they should serve their sentences here and afterwards be set free to continue on with there lives here as civilians who have paid their dues to society.

At 6/18/2008 10:01 AM, Blogger BadGalsRadio said...

Jamaica deserves the Brightest and the Best returnees. the stigma of deportee status has long invoked a hopeless situation. it's time Jamaica adopted a stronger posture for support of All Returnees - whether forcefully emancipated or proudly returning. the one deportee no one spoke abut was the abundance of "Deportee Guns". that is the Deportee we DON'T Need in Jamaica.

At 3/10/2009 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that everyone deserve a second chance however why is it that people always judge jamaicans we are not the only people that get send back home for drugs so why they always have to talk about us i am a jamaican living overseas and i wish every day that i can go back to my country jamaica is the most beautiful place on earth a lot of jamaicans do wany to go back home i for one cant wait for the day when i can pack my bag and said thank you all for everything but i will be going home back to my beautiful country for good .money is a big problem but my heart goes out to deportees who have learn there lesson and are making a change in other young peoples lifes be strong and keep the faith there is always a light at the end of the tunnel god bless

At 3/15/2009 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Think every man is responsible for his own behavior.My Personal situation is I came here seven years ago and I have never gotten myself with the wrong things or people who I knew are involved.I worked for six dollars an hour friends came by and told me that i am a fool to be working for such small wages yet at the time they were making big bucks from the streets.Now most of those same people are dead,prison or deported back to Jamaica and i am still here without an infraction.Just saying each individual make their own decision as to what they want their life to be.

At 8/31/2009 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my brother is being send back to jamaica he was caught driving without a proper documents did his house arrest and when to community service and was picked up from there,now this is my problem he was given a paper to sign saying that he was willing to come home in 11 to 15 days its being almost a month, he was in a detention center and was taken suddenly one evening,that was 4days ago and until no one has heard anything from him since.who do we call for inpro am really worried since no one is saying anything and he chose to come home help what do i do.

At 9/01/2009 7:46 AM, Blogger fwade said...

Sorry to hear -- it sounds awful.

I would call the Jamaican Embassy or Consulate nearest you.


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