June 22, 2009

From Jamaica to DC and back again

Leroy was born in 1971, making him just a couple of years older than me. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but barely remembers his neighborhood. He moved to the United States when he was seven years old. Leroy arrived in Langley Park in 1978, a neighborhood I am very familiar with, as it is just outside of Washington, DC, where I grew up.

He attended Northwestern High School, so I am sure we have friends in common. Too bad he’s not on Facebook, then I’d know for sure. Like many of the young men I knew growing up in DC, Leroy was drawn to the allure of fast money, and began selling drugs in high school. This was in the early 1990s, when there was a lot of fast money for young men, and Leroy soon was driving a BMW, then a Benz, then a Corvette.

In 1994, Leroy got set up. He sold a half an ounce of cocaine to an undercover agent in the parking lot by Toy’s R US, and was arrested. He posted bail, and went back home to his wife and newborn son. His wife was studying at the University of Maryland at the time. Leroy was on the run for a while, but the police kept asking his mother and his wife where he was. So, he turned himself in. Leroy was sentenced to three years in prison for selling cocaine.

At the time, this was not a deportable offense, so Leroy thought he would be released after serving his time. However, by the time he was released, a new law had been passed – one that made deportation laws retroactive. In other words, even though a three year drug sentence did not render Leroy eligible for deportation in early 1996 when he was convicted, he faced deportation when he was released in 1999.

When Leroy finished serving his time, he was transferred to immigration detention, and deported to Jamaica, a country he had not been to or even thought of for over twenty years. Having moved to the US at the age of seven, he looked, talked, and walked like an American.

Once in Jamaica, Leroy could only think of going back to the States. He tried three times, buying false passports. Each time, the passports were done badly and he wasn’t even allowed on the plane. For now, he has resigned himself to staying in Jamaica.

Young and intelligent, Leroy is one of the few deportees I have talked to who is able to fend for himself. He got a job building water tanks for a Caribbean company, and earns a decent wage when he can find work.

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