Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks, wants the Jamaican Diaspora to get organized in dealing with the “deportation crisis”.
Addressing the annual awards banquet of the Jamaican American Bar Association’s North East Chapter, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Edison, New Jersey, last weekend, Ambassador Marks said that over the past two decades more than 40,000 nationals were deported to Jamaica from foreign prisons, including the USA’s, with thousands more awaiting deportation.
She said that for the period 2001 to 2009 the number of Jamaicans deported ranged from approximately 1,500 to nearly 2,000, each year.
She told the approximately 400 guests at the function, that the impact of the ongoing wave of deportation on Jamaica and the deported persons has been significant. She said that, inspite of the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act which monitors criminal offenders deported to Jamaica, credible intelligence reports have revealed a correlation between deported criminal offenders and an upsurge in gang violence, extortion and drug and gang-related murders in Jamaica.
President and CEO of the Golden Crust Bakery, Noel Hawthorne (right), greets Jamaica’s Ambassador to the U.S., Audrey Marks, at the Jamaican American Bar Association Awards Banquet on Saturday November 20, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Edison New Jersey. At centre is Jamaican born Acting Mayor of the City of Highland Park, New Jersey, Elsie Foster-Dublin.
The Ambassador stated that Jamaican law enforcement officials have pointed to links between the increase in the number of criminal deportees, and an increase in local criminal gangs.
“There was even a time, in the recent past, when most of our top gangs were led by persons who lived outside of Jamaica,” Ambassador Marks declared.
“Deportation is very hard on our nationals, for a variety of reasons, but especially on those who left Jamaica at a very early age and have few ties to our country,” she said.
Lack of funds, a place to stay, friends, family contacts, job opportunities and lack of familiarity with basic things like the currency, the layout of cities and towns in Jamaica and the transportation system, were among the challenges faced by deported persons, she stated.
The Jamaican envoy implored Jamaican nationals in the U.S. to be more organized and to become citizens of the U.S., in order that they can lobby elected U.S. officials to review current deportation legislation. She noted that organizations, like the Jamaican American Bar Association, were nurturing and guiding Jamaicans who emigrate to the USA and needed support.
“If we can prevent more of our people from committing criminal acts then we will, hopefully, reduce the number of convictions and hence the number of deportations,” she said.
Ambassador Marks observed that too many U.S. citizens of Jamaican birth, and Jamaican Green Card-holders, do not realise that a Jamaican child who is ‘filed for’ by a US citizen, does not automatically become a citizen when he or she becomes an adult.
“When that child becomes an adult, he or she must report to the USCIS office to establish his or her own citizenship status. Increased knowledge of this and other aspects of US law would go a far way in reducing the numbers of potential deportations from among that category of persons,” she explained.
The Ambassador commended JABA for the tremendous work they have done on behalf of Jamaican citizens in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Tri-State area, as well as in assisting the Jamaican Consulate in handling deportee cases.
JABA President, Joan Pinnock, reiterated that the focus of the organization was to assist in reducing the number of Jamaican nationals deported each year from the U.S. She said the organization has been successful in preventing a number of those deportations.