September 22, 2009

Deported to Jamaica: No job, no money, little hope

“I don’t believe in luck; you do things right, you get good results. You do things wrong, you get bad results” Delvin, a deportee living in St. Ann’s, Jamaica

At 42 years old, Delvin is having a difficult time re-incorporating himself into Jamaica, even though he was quite well-established before migrating to the US.

Delvin is from Spanish Town, Jamaica. He went to the US when he was 33 years old. When he migrated, he had a stable job in a sugar factory as a chemist. He had been in the sugar factory for fourteen years, and had worked his way up the ladder, slowly but surely.

Although his job was stable, it paid just enough to get by, not enough to get ahead in life. Delvin thought that, in the US, he would be able to make more money, to do better for himself. In addition, his wife was already in the US, and he wanted to re-unite with her. Delvin secured a tourist visa to go to the US in 1999, and resigned his job at the sugar factory.

When Delvin went to the US, his wife had already been there for four years. He bought his two children tickets to go to Disney World, and was able to get a tourist visa for him and the children. When he arrived in the US, he found that his wife was already with someone else. She had divorced him, married a US citizen, and was now a legal permanent resident. She had done all of this without telling him. Delvin left the two children with her and her new husband in Miami, and went to North Carolina not too long after that.

In North Carolina, Delvin worked a series of temporary jobs. I asked him if he had ever been able to get his papers straight. He had tried, but was unsuccessful. Delvin had married US citizen women, twice. But, he was never able to get his papers in order.

The first time, he married a woman in Miami. By the time his interview with immigration came up, he was already in North Carolina. Thinking he wouldn’t be eligible for legalization, he didn’t go to the interview. The law, however, says that, so long as he entered the marriage in good faith, he would have been able to legalize. Not knowing that, he simply didn’t go.

Instead, he divorced the woman, and married someone else in North Carolina. By the time their interview came around, they had separated. Again, he didn’t go to the interview. By not showing up twice at the interview for his petition for legalization on the basis of his marriage, Delvin likely triggered a deportation order. He went from being simply an undocumented immigrant to a “deportable alien” – someone with a deportation order. This status makes him more likely to be found by immigration agents. It was just a matter of time before he would be deported. With 287 (g) in force, any interaction with the police would lead to him being deported.

One evening in 2006, Delvin had a party at his house, and the police showed up. When the police entered his house, they found drugs and a gun on the premises. Delvin told me they weren’t his. But, since it was his house, he was charged, and sentenced to one year of probation. When he was nearly finished with his probation, ICE sent a list of people with deportation orders to his probation officer. Delvin’s name was on the list. His probation officer turned him over to ICE, and Delvin was taken into immigration custody. Two months later, he was deported.

Back in Jamaica, Delvin went to his aging mother’s house, in St. Ann’s, where she lives with his 22-year old son. They had been dependent on Delvin’s remittances to eat and pay the bills. Now that he is back, it is very hard for them to get by. None of them have been able to find work. Their electricity has been cut off, and they are living with the bare minimum.

One of Delvin’s baby mothers in the US came to visit him, with their infant, who Delvin met for the first time. She was shocked to see the poverty in which he lives, and wants to help Delvin get back to the US. She told him she would marry him, and see if he could return to the US. Delvin is ineligible for re-entry to the US for ten years, but may be able to seek a waiver. With no resources in Jamaica, he is dependent on his baby mother to process and pay for the paperwork.

When Delvin lived in the US, he was able to attain a comfortable standard of living. He provided for his three children and their mothers. He had a car, several televisions, and nice clothes. When he was deported, his girlfriend packed up some of his valuables and sent it to him in Jamaica in a barrel. Unfortunately, he did not have the money to pay to get his items through customs. He has to pay import taxes on the three televisions another other items, and did not have the money. He is not sure if he ever will be able to get the items out of customs.

While Delvin was living in America, he sent money to Jamaica to build an addition on to his mother’s house in St. Ann’s, near Ocho Rios. He had never lived there himself, but now has to live there, as he has no where else to go. In St. Ann’s, he has no connections, other than his mother and his son.

Delvin also is leery of using public transportation. In the US, he drove around in cars, and, is not accustomed to the packed, deteriorr.ating buses that Jamaicans use to travel around. So, he hasn’t gone back to Spanish Town, where he is from, to find out if his friends are still there, or if there is any way he could get a job back at the factory he used to work at.

For now, he is dependent on his brother, who is a police officer in Montego Bay, to provide his mother, his son and himself with the bare necessities.

Delvin has five children in the US – two are with his Jamaican ex-wife. The other three are children he had with other women after they separated. Those five children will likely grow up never knowing their father.

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