U.S. Congress Urged to Review Deportee Legislation


Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of National Security, Dr. Ann-Marie Barnes, has urged the United States Congress to review its legislation on deportees, with a view to more appropriately balancing the interests of the deporting country, the individual being deported, the best interests of children, and the long-term impact on receiving countries.
In her testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on Tuesday, (July 24) Dr. Barnes said that, of 345 deported persons interviewed, the majority were parents whose children in the United States face extreme hardships, emotionally and financially.
“Overall, 96 per cent of parents had left their children when they were deported, and less than 20 per cent provide any support for those children, who have become dependent on other relatives and welfare programmes for their primary means of support,” she explained, citing data from a recent study. In addition, she pointed out that the mass deportation of criminal offenders to Latin America and the Caribbean constitutes one of the greatest threats to security in the region. “While deportation may solve a few problems within the United States, the removal of criminal offenders from one geographical location to another simply re-locates the crime problem,” she stated. “In a global world, problems of insecurity in any given location are unlikely to be constrained by borders, particularly in nation-states that have generally failed to keep pace with globalised threats,” the Chief Technical Director told the U.S. lawmakers.
Her testimony comes on the heels of last month’s historic Conference on the Caribbean where Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers raised the deportee issue as they met with U.S. President George W. Bush, and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. According to the data cited by Dr. Barnes, between 1990 and 2005, a total of more than 17,000 persons have been deported for drug offences to Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. These statistics, obtained from a recent CARICOM study, found that almost 30,000 criminal offenders had been deported to the countries in question. Of the total deportations, almost 1,800 of them were for possession of illegal firearms, and more than 600 for murder. She argued that given those data, “the United States is responsible for more than 75 per cent of all criminal deportations to the region.” Dr. Barnes further explained to the U.S. Congress that, with a combined population of less than five million people in the countries studied, “the impact of this relocation of criminal offenders would be roughly equivalent to the influx, into the United States, of more than one million convicted drug offenders, and close to 40,000 convicted murderers.” In one of the countries studied, the deportation of criminal offenders rivals the number of convicted persons released from local penal institutions annually, practically doubling the number of criminal offenders released into that society each year, Dr. Barnes added.
Other recommendations included a call for the allocation of technical and financial resources to support social reintegration and law enforcement programmes in receiving countries; and procedural guidelines to help to streamline the deportation process.
Support programmes she said, could include: the re-integration of deported persons who need training and access to rehabilitative programming; financial support for establishment of transitional facilities; and increased support for law enforcement services in the receiving countries. Also testifying at the hearing were: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Charles Shapiro, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; International Organization for Migration Chief of Mission for Haiti, Maureen Aching; Senior Researcher for Human Rights Watch, Allison Parker; and Marsha L. Garst, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Rockingham County, Virginia. Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Gordon V. Shirley, attended the hearing, along with other Caribbean ambassadors.

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