Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Lockdown - Jamaicans go into hiding as news of sweeping deportation raids drives fear into immigrants

Published:Tuesday | July 16, 2019 | 12:25 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Thousands of people, including immigrants and their supporters, rally against President Trump’s immigration policies as they march from Daley Plaza to the Chicago field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago last Saturday.
US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump
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United States President Donald Trump’s announcement last week of impending sweeping deportation raids beginning on Sunday has rattled communities across the North American country, sending several undocumented immigrants, including Jamaicans, into lockdown.

As heightened levels of fear gripped immigrants on the weekend in anticipation of mass sweeps by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two Jamaicans – one living in the US for 15 years and another for nine – have related to our news team how they have been forced to make dramatic changes to their routines, locking themselves away from even relatives to limit the chances of falling into the dragnet.

Miguel* told The Gleaner that although he was an avid partygoer, he opted to relocate and remain indoors this past weekend.

“Mi deh a farin nine years and live a New York fi five years. Dem say dem a start Sunday, but me mek sure stay in from Friday night because me nuh believe dem would a come and mek people know. Dem probably start a day before, so me nuh tek no chance,” he said. “Party miss mi Saturday. A New York this, and if you want catch people without documents, a party yuh guh. Mi stay home and avoid any raid.”

Miguel told our news team that he has tried unsuccessfully to legalise his stay in the United States.

“Mi was on the verge to married, but it never pan out, so mi just a begin fi try again. It nuh as easy as some people mek it sound,” he reasoned.

Vincent*, who has been living illegally in the US since 2004, told The Gleaner that he avoided going to work this past weekend out of fear that the touted raids would stretch to his place of employment.

“Mi nuh normally miss weekend, but wid all weh mi hear a gwaan, I never show up, and my boss understands why. Is a Syrian mi work for, and people know a dem employ the most illegal immigrants a New York. So where yuh think the Feds would look? I not taking any chances,” he said.

Vincent said that despite settling in the US illegally, he has been a “good citizen”.

“Mi nuh trouble people. Mi go mi work and get mi pay. Mi send back a likkle change come a Jamaica when mi can. Mi just a gwaan live,” he said.

He admitted that the president’s announcement drove terror into him.

“Right now, a di most mi ever fear being sent back home. Trump a try get re-elected and so him will do anything ya now,” Vincent told The Gleaner.

While he also was unsure of exactly where or when the raids would happen, he was not taking any chances.

“Mi can’t go back a Jamaica right now, and me nuh young enough to find love. Mi can work, and a dat me a do here,” he said.

Vincent said that checks yesterday had not yet turned up news of any of his associates being nabbed in the raids.

“Mi mek two link and I don’t know of anybody who get grab. Right now, mi just affi gwaan read, look and listen. Ask anybody, this a di most mi ever hear people talk fear ‘bout getting send home and is a thing weh the Feds do every day,” Vincent said, adding that he has been in touch with advocacy groups and has legal representatives on standby.

The Department of Homeland Security says immigrants living in the US illegally who were primary targets of this operation would be removed from the country pursuant to their final order. Those without final orders would be issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge and remain in ICE custody as they awaited the outcome of their removal proceedings.

The raids are reportedly planned to target about 2,000 people who had been previously ordered out of the country but were still living in Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and San Francisco.

An official in the Trump administration told CNN that parts of the ICE deportation operation began on the weekend and would be expanded into other cities over the coming days.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com