July 6, 2009

Deportee Profile: Brian

When I met Brian, he was nearly sixty years old, although he looked older. He is very dark-skinned, with wrinkles on his face and a few missing teeth.

I interviewed Brian outside of a shoe repair shop in Brownstown, one of Kingston’s inner city neighborhoods. He laughed a lot during the interview, but I am not sure why. His life story did not strike me as funny. Perhaps it is his way of dealing with it.

Brian first went to the US on a farmworker visa in 1974. He decided to overstay his farmworker visa, and went from being a legal farmworker to an illegal farmworker. He didn’t have much trouble finding a job picking oranges and grapefruits in Florida. He continued working illegally until around 1980, when he was able to legalize through his wife and baby mother. Life didn’t change much for him; he continued working as a farm laborer.

Although Brian had legal permanent residency in the US, he was deported for two counts of small scale drug possession in 1986. The first time was when he was wearing a friend’s windbreaker that had a small amount of crack in it. As they were going out to a club and it was cold, Brian borrowed his friend’s jacket. There was a raid in the club. The police searched Bobby and found “crumbs” of a rock in his pocket. He was arrested and given probation. Not too long after, Brian was walking around in his neighborhood and was searched by the police. They found a rock of crack cocaine in his pocket. He was sentenced to five years, served two, and was deported back to Jamaica in 1996.

Based on his stories, it seems likely that Brian had become a crack user in the US in the 1980s. Due to the criminalization of drug use in the US, instead of being treated for drug abuse, he was put in jail. He was given the mandatory minimum for crack possession – five years. Because of the provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, his five year sentence for possession of crack led to his deportation.

Brian came back to the United States illegally in 1992. He was able to remain undetected for four years, but eventually was picked up and sent back to Jamaica.

This time, he has decided to stay in Jamaica until he is able to return legally. Brian moved to the US when he was 23 years old. He spent a total of sixteen years in the US, two of them in jail. He has five children born in the US.

Back in Jamaica, he lives with a friend, as he doesn’t have a place of his own. Brian occasionally gets work as a mason, and says he is able to find enough to eat. He is thinking of buying coal in St. Thomas to sell in Jamaica, as soon as he can get the money together to get started with that.

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